McCain: Cruz a viable candidate

Francis Rivera

Sen. John McCainJohn McCainNBC's Lester Holt emerges from debate bruised and partisan Pundits react: Clinton won first debate Overnight Defense: Debate night is here | Senate sets vote on 9/11 veto override | Kerry, McCain spar over Syria MORE (R-Ariz.) offered his colleague Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzThe Trail 2016: Fight night Google backs Obama's internet transition plan Steve King asks: Will Clinton be ‘on her meds or off her meds’ for debate? MORE a non-endorsement on the eve of the Texas Republican's expected presidential launch.

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"He is a valued member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, him and I are friendly and I think he is a very viable candidate," McCain, the chairman of the committee, said on CNN's "State of the Union."

And if Cruz ultimately wins the nomination, he could beat Hillary Clinton and go all the way in 2016, McCain suggested.

But McCain pointed out his deepest support remains with his friend and potential 2016 Republican presidential contender, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

"Lindsey Graham is the one I think knows best about national security," McCain said.

Cruz is expected to announce his White House bid Monday during a speech at the evangelical Liberty University.