Former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) said a number of junior GOP senators considering a presidential run in 2016 do not yet have the experience — specifically naming Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Ted Cruz (Texas).
The 1996 GOP presidential candidate sounded particularly skeptical of Cruz in an interview this week with The Wichita Eagle.
"A number of the younger members, first-termers like Rand Paul, Rubio and that extreme-right-wing guy, Ted Cruz — all running for president now. I don't think they've got enough experience yet," Dole said.
"If not ... I plan to vote absentee," he joked.
Last month, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called on Cruz to apologize to Dole after a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in which Cruz said Dole and other failed GOP presidential candidates had not stood on principle.
"All of us remember President Dole, and President McCain and President Romney," Cruz said at the time. "Now, look, those are good men; they're decent men, but when you don't stand and draw a clear distinction, when you don't stand for principle, Democrats celebrate."
Dole said Cruz is "way out there" on the extremes of the party and defended his own record, calling himself one of President Reagan's top supporters.
Dole is making a three-day tour of Kansas this week and has commented on subjects from Ukraine to the healthcare law.
Dole was critical of the Republican Party's platform on healthcare, saying, "they need to get together and coordinate, but they don't."
He took a few shots at President Obama, expressing skepticism about the healthcare exchange enrollment totals, which the administration has said surpassed 8 million.
The former Senate majority leader said the president "lacks strong leadership skills" and criticized him for not forging stronger relationships with members of Congress.
He also advocated for sending military support to the Ukrainian government after pro-Russian separatists have taken over a number of government buildings in eastern Ukraine.