Former Sen. Coleman throws support to Jeb Bush

Former Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., in April 2015. Brett Neely | MPR News

Former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman took a new side Monday in the GOP presidential race, endorsing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as the first nominating votes near.

Coleman, who had been supporting Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., before he dropped out, said he trusts Bush to call the shots on foreign affairs at a time of global instability.

“I have friends in this race. Marco Rubio is a friend. Chris Christie is a friend. I know John Kasich. There are some folks that I know well in this race who I think are very talented. They have great skills,” Coleman said. “I just think Jeb is the guy – today – uniquely qualified to take the reins as commander in chief and to move the nation forward.”

It’s not clear what role Coleman will play in promoting Bush. Coleman still has good standing among Republican groups where strong U.S. ties to Israel matter most, but opinion of him is split among rank-and-file Republicans in Minnesota, where his single term as senator ended in 2009.

Minnesota holds its precinct caucuses on March 1. A Minneapolis Star Tribune poll over the weekend showed Bush’s support among state Republican voters in single digits, far behind Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and real estate mogul Donald Trump.

Even though Bush has struggled to gain traction in key states and in national polls, Coleman said he appreciates Bush’s willingness to take on Republican front-runner Trump even as other rivals have shied away.

“I like Jeb’s tone. It’s a tone that isn’t an angry tone. I understand the depth of anger out that’s out there. I see it, I feel it. But you don’t solve anger by just being angry or saying angry things. You’ve got to solve the things that are causing the problems,” Coleman said.