Ted Cruz doesn’t endorse Donald Trump, then upstaged by him
Cleveland (CNN) Ted Cruz sensationally withheld an endorsement of Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night, earning a chorus of boos from the floor before he was upstaged in a power play by the GOP nominee himself.
In a dramatic development, as Cruz wrapped up his speech, Trump suddenly appeared in the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. He walked to join his family in a VIP area and flashed a thumbs-up — a gesture that transmitted clear anger at the Texas senator’s behaviour.
Cruz, his party’s runner-up, uttered Trump’s name just once — to congratulate him — and instead pitched the ideological brand of conservatism that endears him to the GOP’s base.
“I congratulate Donald Trump on winning the nomination last night,” Cruz said. “And like each of you, I want to see the principles that our party believes prevail in November.”
Donald Trump flanked by two of his children at the Convention (CNN photo)
But as it was clear Cruz was going to end his speech without endorsing Trump, delegates began to boo and some chanted “We want Trump!”
“Don’t stay in home in November,” Cruz said toward the end of his otherwise very well-received speech. “Stand and speak and vote your conscience.”
As delegates began to protest, Sen. Cruz’s wife, Heidi Cruz, was heckled by Trump supporters shouting “Goldman Sachs!” and escorted out by security. Heidi Cruz, who is an employee of Goldman Sachs, declined to answer questions from reporters, saying, “I don’t talk to the media, thanks.”
The stunning political theater between the top two contenders in the Republican primary race blew open divisions in the party that the convention is designed to heal, and suggested Cruz believes Trump will lose in November.
Cruz’s appearance at the Cleveland convention had been the subject of intense anticipation over his attitude toward Trump, after their intensely personal exchanges in the late stages of the primary race.
He got a prolonged standing ovation as he walked on stage for a speech that appeared to be an attempt to establish himself as the guardian of conservative values that some activists doubt Trump shares.
Cruz’s rebuke ignited a hot scene around the senator as soon as he left the stage. People averted their eyes from Cruz and his wife as they walked with their security detail on the skybox level of boisterous Republicans.
On the donor suite level, people approached Cruz and insulted him, a source told CNN’s Dana Bash. One state party chairman reacted so angrily that he had to be restrained.
The reaction from the floor was also swift and harsh.
Newt Gingrich, appearing after Cruz, argued that Cruz’s advocacy for constitutionalism meant that he, implicitly, endorsed Trump — words he himself did not say.
“So to paraphrase Ted Cruz, if you want to protect the Constitution this fall, there’s only one possible way and that’s to vote the Trump-Pence ticket.”
Jonathan Barnett, a Republican national committeeman from Arkansas, walked off the floor after Cruz’s speech.
“He’s self-centered. It’s all about Ted Cruz. All he did is ruin his political career,” Barnett said. “I think he’s finished.”
Barnett said this is not the kind of grace one shows their party’s nominee: “Reagan wouldn’t have done that. He endorsed Ford.”
Arizona delegate Bruce Ash expressed a similar sentiment.
“Cruz missed his moment. All he had to do was say ‘Trump’ and he used the dog whistle for ‘conscience.’ A very disappointing message,” Ash texted.
Wes Brumit, a Cruz delegate from Texas, defended Cruz’s non-endorsement.
“He did mention all the points Trump mentioned: building a wall, fighting ISIS. He just didn’t come right out and endorse,” said Bumit, who sported a red “Ted Cruz for President” T-shirt and a cowboy hat. “He said everyone should be able to vote their conscience. And that’s OK with me.”
As for those who loudly booed Cruz? “All the boos were exactly the New York values that Ted has talked about.”
Bumit added: “I think Mr. Trump has some things to apologize for to Cruz before Sen Cruz can come onboard fully for Trump.”
The remarkable moment at the convention was the second time Cruz was upstaged by Trump Wednesday.
At a rally on the Cleveland waterfront, as Cruz spoke gingerly to fellow Republicans about “our nominee” and the uncertain future under his former rival, Trump’s plane flew in the clear skies behind him.
“That was pretty well orchestrated” Cruz said as the Trump-emblazoned aircraft buzzed through the air and the crowd booed.
Turning to his campaign manager, Jeff Roe, Cruz said, “Jeff, did you email them to fly the plane right when I said that?”