Republican presidential contender Lindsey Graham, mired at the bottom of the polls, came out swinging at Ted Cruz and Donald Trump on Thursday, excoriating his two GOP rivals for what the South Carolina senator called “hateful rhetoric” on immigration.
Graham, one of a parade of GOP candidates set to speak at the day-long Republican Jewish Coalition presidential forum in Washington, told attendees that Cruz and Trump are alienating Hispanic voters.
“I believe Donald Trump is destroying the Republican Party’s chance to win an election that we can’t afford to lose,” the defense hawk and staunch supporter of Israel said.
Taking the stage just minutes after Cruz told attendees that turning out social conservatives was the key to Republicans winning next year’s presidential race, Graham ripped into the Texas senator.
“I believe we’re losing the Hispanic vote because they think we don’t like them,” Graham said. “I believe that it’s not about turning out evangelical Christians, it’s about repairing the damage done by incredibly hateful rhetoric driving a wall between us and the fastest-growing demographic in America — who should be Republican.”
Graham at one point made what seemed to be a comparison of GOP front-runner Trump’s hard-line stance on immigration to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.
“We’re literally going to round ’em up. That sound familiar to you?” Graham asked the audience of Jewish conservatives. “Every one of them. Including their American citizen children. That’s the leader of the Republican Party. You think you’re going to win an election with that kind of garbage?”
Graham told attendees he’d planned to focus his remarks on foreign policy, but decided instead to respond to the speech he’d just heard from Cruz.
Graham warned that a far-right position on abortion would also cost Republicans the 2016 election.
“If the nominee of the Republican Party will not allow for an exception for rape and incest, they will not win,” Graham said. “Ted Cruz … says the debate’s going to be about the Little Sisters of the Poor. He’s going to take the fight to the Democrats over their wanting to impose social policy on charitable organizations.
Graham said if Cruz is the GOP’s candidate, Democrats undoubtedly would frame the issue differently: “It will be about rape … It will be about the nominee of the Republican Party telling a woman who’s been raped, ‘You gotta carry the child of a rapist.’ Good luck with that.”