Bob Dole, the former Kansas senator and 1996 Republican presidential nominee, has never been fond of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. But in an interview Wednesday, Mr. Dole said that the party would suffer “cataclysmic” and “wholesale losses” if Mr. Cruz were the nominee, and that Donald J. Trump would fare better.
“I question his allegiance to the party,” Mr. Dole said of Mr. Cruz. “I don’t know how often you’ve heard him say the word ‘Republican’ — not very often.” Instead, Mr. Cruz uses the word “conservative,” Mr. Dole said, before offering up a different word for Mr. Cruz: “extremist.”
“I don’t know how he’s going to deal with Congress,” he said. “Nobody likes him.”
But Mr. Dole, 92, said he thought Mr. Trump could “probably work with Congress, because he’s, you know, he’s got the right personality and he’s kind of a deal-maker.”
The remarks by Mr. Dole reflect wider unease with Mr. Cruz among members of the Republican establishment, but few leading members of the party have been as candid and cutting.
“If he’s the nominee, we’re going to have wholesale losses in Congress and state offices and governors and legislatures,” said Mr. Dole, who served in the House and Senate for 35 years and won the Iowa caucuses twice. He described Mr. Cruz as having falsely “convinced the Iowa voters that he’s kind of a mainstream conservative.”
The only person who could stop Mr. Cruz from capturing the nomination? “I think it’s Trump,” Mr. Dole said, adding that Mr. Trump was “gaining a little.”
He said he had met Mr. Trump only once, 30 years ago. “But he has toned down his rhetoric,” he added. As for Mr. Cruz, he said: “There’ll be wholesale losses if he’s the nominee. Our party is not that far right.”
Mr. Dole repeatedly said he was strongly supporting Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, although he acknowledged that Mr. Bush has had trouble gaining traction.