WASHINGTON -- If business mogul Donald Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) win the GOP presidential nomination, Republicans will lose the 2016 contest, one of their former rivals, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), declared Thursday.
"The only way we lose this election is to nominate somebody who cannot grow this party’s vote among minorities, young women, and the coalitions we need to win," Graham told reporters on Capitol Hill. "If you nominate Trump and Cruz I think you’d get the same outcome. Whether it’s death by being shot or poisoning, does it really matter? I don’t think the outcome will be substantially different."
Not only would Trump and Cruz -- who have both staked out strongly anti-immigration positions -- fail to grow the Republican Party, they would turn away regular voters even more than Graham thinks Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would, he said.
"Dishonest, which is Hillary Clinton in the eyes of the American people, beats crazy," Graham said. "I think Donald Trump’s domestic and foreign policy is gibberish. I think Ted Cruz has a reputation of being ideological to a fault, and that when it comes to problem solving, he will have a very difficult time proving that he is a problem solver."
He pointed to both of the GOP front-runners' hard-line stances on immigration, and to Cruz's position on banning abortion, which makes no exception for rape or incest, as positions that will alienate voters the party needs to win.
"That entire package with Trump and Cruz, in my view, would make it possible for her, if she’s the nominee, or Bernie, to win an election they should lose," Graham said. "And if you take those two off the table, dishonest loses to normal."
"So let’s just pick somebody out of the phone book if we have to," added Graham, who recently backed Jeb Bush. "We can win this election unless we lose it."
Graham also had plenty to say that was unflattering about Clinton's top rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), calling him the most liberal contender who has ever had a shot at actually winning the White House.
"I would say this: that we have an election cycle that’s beyond strange," Graham said.
"If the past is any indication of the future in terms of [Cruz, Sanders and Trump], I think America would be in trouble if any of them got to be president of the United States," Graham said.
Watch Graham's remarks in full, including more on Sanders, above.