Former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole endorsed Donald Trump for president on Friday, becoming the only former Republican presidential nominee to do so.
Dole, who was his party’s nominee in 1996, will also attend the Republican convention in Cleveland in July, where Trump is expected to be nominated. Former presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush have said they won’t endorse Trump or go to Cleveland.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, the 2008 nominee, won’t go to Cleveland, and nor will former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the 2012 nominee.
“We must unite as a party to defeat Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump is our party’s presumptive nominee and our best chance at taking back the White House this November,” said Dole, 93, in a statement posted to the Trump campaign website.
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Dole served in the Senate from 1969 to 1996, and twice as majority leader. He was chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1971 and 1972 and ran on the Republican ticket with President Gerald Ford in 1976. He also ran, unsuccessfully, for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988.
We must unite as a party to defeat Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump is our party’s presumptive nominee and our best chance at taking back the White House this November.
Former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan.
While many prominent Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, have declined to endorse Trump, Dole said he plans “to show my support for our party and our ticket, as I have done my entire life.”
“The voters of our country have turned out in record numbers to support Mr. Trump,” Dole said in the statement. “It is important that their votes be honored and it is time that we support the party’s presumptive nominee, Donald J. Trump.”
In the same statement, Trump thanked Dole for his support.
“He is a wonderful man and it is a great honor to have his support,” Trump said.
Dole had originally endorsed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Bush, who dropped out of the race in February, has said that he does not plan to vote for Trump.
In December, Dole publicly expressed his distaste for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who he described as “extreme” and disrespectful of his colleagues in the Senate.
Dole also criticized Trump for his “over the top” statements and the insults he lobbed at his rivals.
Cruz ended his campaign on Tuesday after a poor showing in Indiana, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich ended his bid on Wednesday, clearing Trump’s path to the nomination.