A string of halfhearted endorsements suggests that Republicans aren't entirely happy with their remaining options for president. (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

It wasn't a huge surprise when Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, came out in support of Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) before the Ohio primary.

"You look at this guy, and unlike the other people running, he has a real track record," Romney gushed in front of a crowd in North Canton, Ohio, the day before the March 15 primaries. "(Kasich) has the kind of record that you want in Washington. That's why I'm convinced that you're going to do the right thing tomorrow."

So ... that's an endorsement, right?

Not so fast.

Just a week later, Romney urged Utah voters to cast their ballots for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), calling him "the only way we can reach an open convention.”

It was all pretty fitting for an election full of awkward, half-hearted and sometimes backhanded endorsements.

Chris Christie endorsed Donald Trump, and was quickly accused of looking like a "hostage" at subsequent press conferences. Ben Carson endorsed Trump, too, then told political commentator Steve Malzberg, "Even if Donald Trump doesn't turn out to be such a great president ... We're only looking at four years."


And the same is true of the anti-Trump brigade. Romney supports any candidate that's not Trump. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) could barely hide his contempt for Cruz while announcing his support for the Texas senator on CNN.

But it's not really about liking any of the candidates, at this point. The GOP establishment is so desperate for a Trump alternative -- any Trump alternative -- that it will settle for Cruz, a man that was probably GOP Establishment Public Enemy No. 1 before Trump came along. And those lining up behind Trump are so frustrated with the establishment, what Cruz calls "the Washington cartel," that they'll support his candidacy despite his perceived flaws (just look at Carson, who Trump once compared to a child molester).

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) might have put the establishment perspective best:

"If you're someone who is uneasy with the front-runner right now, there's really only one candidate," Walker told a Wisconsin radio station on Wednesday. "Ted Cruz is the only one who's got a chance other than Donald Trump to win the nomination statistically, and my friend Gov. Kasich cannot."

At this point in the process, it's too late to come up with a shiny, flawless new candidate. So battle lines are forming within the Republican Party, with Trump on one side, and not-Trump on the other.

It's just that no one seems to be particularly happy with the choices left to them.