jeb bush.jpg
Photograph: Photo by Gage Skidmore, used under CC BY-SA

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush has endorsed former rival Ted Cruz for the Republican presidential nomination as he looks to keep Donald Trump from becoming the standard bearer for the US centre-right party in November presidential elections.

"For the sake of our party and country, we must move to overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity Donald Trump has brought into the political arena, or we will certainly lose our chance to defeat the Democratic nominee and reverse President Obama’s failed policies," Bush said in a statement Wednesday.

Bush, the son of former president George HW Bush and brother of former president George W Bush, had once been seen as the likely leader in the crowded Republican field but failed to gain support in a contest that came to be dominated by billionaire businessman Trump.

Trump's surprising rise came amid an anti-establishment mood among Republican primary voters that hurt Bush's chances as the ultimate establishment figure and also winnowed the field of most of the other traditional candidates.

Bush quit the race after failing to gain traction in the South Carolina primary last month.

Bush's support could help Cruz, a senator from Texas, tap into his large donor base as much of the party remains opposed to a Trump candidacy and could seek to challenge him at the party convention where the party's candidate will be formally chosen in July.

Cruz called the endorsement "further evidence that Republicans are continuing to unite behind our campaign to nominate a proven conservative to defeat Hillary Clinton in November, take back the White House, and ensure a freer and more prosperous America for future generations."

The endorsement comes after Marco Rubio, Bush's one-time protege in Florida politics, also quit the Republican race last week.

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