As voting nears in the U.S. Republican presidential nominating contests, some influential conservative voices are saying they adamantly do not want either of the current frontrunners, billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump or Texas Senator Ted Cruz, to be the party's nominee in November's national election.
One of the country's preeminent conservative publications, National Review, devoted an entire issue Friday to its opposition to Trump's candidacy, labeling it, "Against Trump." The magazine compiled a collection of 22 essays from right-wing thinkers on why they oppose the flamboyant Trump as the Republican standard bearer in the race to succeed Democratic President Barack Obama.
National Review editors said that Trump, a political novice, had long held positions that are anathema to most U.S. conservatives, such as favoring abortion rights and a bigger role for the national government, before saying in the current campaign that he has changed his views.
"There are understandable reasons for his eminence, and he has shown impressive gut-level skill as a campaigner," the editors said of Trump in an overview of the essays. "But he is not deserving of conservative support in the caucuses and primaries. Trump is a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones."
Trump, who is drawing support from less educated, lower-income Republican voters angered at political gridlock in Washington, has been leading for months in national and many state-by-state surveys of Republican voters.
He has taunted his Republicans with barbed comments and immediately disparaged National Review's contempt for his candidacy, saying its founder, William F. Buckley, would be appalled at Friday's issue.
"The late, great William F. Buckley would be ashamed of what had happened to his prize, the dying National Review!" Trump tweeted.
If some conservative thinkers are opposed to Trump, other Republican establishment figures seem equally opposed to Cruz, who is currently running second to Trump in national surveys. They say Cruz's brand of rigid conservatism would make him unelectable in the national election, with one-time Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole saying this week that a Cruz candidacy would doom numerous other Republican candidates as well.
Republican presidential candidate, Senator Ted Cruz, speaks during a campaign stop at the Freedom Country Store in Freedom, New Hampshire, Jan. 19, 2016.
Cruz delights in tweaking Washington political conventions, aiming his pointed comments at Democrats and Republicans alike. He led the 16-day partial shutdown of the national government in 2013, a futile effort to overturn Obama's national health care reforms.
One erstwhile 2016 Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina who dropped out of the race after failing to win much support, announced that he now favors another lagging candidate, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the son and brother of two former U.S. presidents.
But Graham voiced his dismay at the prospect of either Trump or Cruz winning the Republican nomination.
"It's like being shot or poisoned," Graham said. "What does it really matter?"
The first Republican nominating contest is set for Feb. 1 in the farm state of Iowa, with numerous contests in other states in the coming weeks.