Republican presidential contender Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) unleashed on his party Thursday morning an off-the-cuff remarks decrying Ted Cruz and Donald Trump’s bombastic rhetoric toward abortion and immigration.
“I am going to talk to you about winning an election,” Graham told the audience at the Republican Jewish Coalition.
Graham had planned to address national security issues including the Islamic State and the Iranian nuclear deal upfront, but after following Cruz, Graham proceeded to engage the audience in some electoral real talk.
“Why we lose,” Graham argued had nothing to do with not being “hard ass enough on immigration.”
“I believe that it is not about turning out evangelical Christians. It is about repairing the damage done by incredibly hateful rhetoric driving a wall between us and the fastest growing Demographic in America,” Graham said.
He called Trump out by name.
“I believe Donald Trump is destroying the Republican Party’s chance at winning an election we cannot afford to lose,” Graham said.
Graham’s departure from prepared remarks spoke to a larger battle waging in the Republican Party at the moment. While Graham is only polling at 1 percent, he is one of the few voices in the establishment willing to to openly discuss how dangerous the primary rhetoric has been for the GOP’s chances in the general election. With the Iowa caucuses just around the corner, Republican Party is growing deeply concerned that Trump or Cruz could rise to be the nominee and seriously endanger the party’s chances of defeating Hillary Clinton.
Beyond immigration, Graham took issue with fellow candidates’ absolutist stance on abortion, which he said was out of touch.
“It is not because of social issues that we will lose. It is the positions we take in regard to social issues that can disconnect us from the world at large,” Graham said. “If you don’t understand the following we are making a big mistake. The nominee of the Republican party will not allow for an exception for rape and incest, they will not win.”