CORAL GABLES March 10 (UPI) — Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah has endorsed his colleague Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in the GOP presidential primary, his first endorsement from a sitting senator in the race.

The endorsement is an answer to taunts from front-runner Donald Trump, who has mocked Cruz for failing to win support from a single senator for his long shot campaign. It is also another body blow for Sen. Marco Rubio, who is friendly with Lee. The announcement came in Coral Gables, Fla., the site of Thursday’s Republican debate and Rubio’s home state where must-win primary for him will be held on Tuesday.

Lee was asked whether Rubio should exit the race before facing a potentially humiliating defeat that could damage his future political aspirations. Lee said he “would encourage him — and I do encourage him — to get behind Ted Cruz.”

Lee said Cruz is the party’s best hope to deny Donald Trump the presidential nomination.

“He is the only Republican candidate who can defeat Donald Trump and who can defeat Hillary Clinton, and I believe he will,” Lee said, referencing the Democratic front-runner.

He added he hopes more senators will offer Cruz their endorsement.

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