GOP primaries

Mike Lee endorses Cruz

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Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) on Thursday became the first sitting senator to endorse Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz.

Lee was a close ally of Cruz during the 16-day government shutdown fight in 2013, when Cruz sought to defund ObamaCare. Both men are former Supreme Court clerks.

{mosads}”Ted is a leader with a proven record of fighting for our conservative values and for the issues that matter most to Americans. He has shown time and again that he is willing to stand up to Washington” Lee said, casting the Texas senator as “an authentic fighter” for American families.

In return, Cruz praised the Utah lawmaker’s policy chops and reiterated his call for a “coalescing” of conservatives around his campaign.

Cruz has 24 House endorsements but until Thursday had not  publicly won the support of a Senate colleague.

GOP front-runner Donald Trump had seized on Cruz’s lack of Senate endorsements, saying it shows he is disliked by those who work closely for him.

The endorsement was likely a tough choice for Lee, a Tea Party favorite, who has close ties to many of the Republican contenders, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), one of the last four GOP hopefuls.

Lee is also close friends with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who ended his presidential bid after a poor showing in the Iowa caucuses.

The endorsement could give Cruz a boost in Utah. The state’s winner-take-all caucus is scheduled for March 22, with 40 pledged delegates up for grabs.

Cruz trails front-runner Trump by just over 14 percent nationwide, according to the latest RealClearPolitics average of polls. He’s also second in the number of delegates with 359 to Trump’s 458, according to The New York Times

Updated at 6:30 p.m. 

Tags Donald Trump Marco Rubio Mike Lee Rand Paul Ted Cruz

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