CLEVELAND, Ohio – Former GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on Thursday faced a blowtorch of criticism after he first spoke at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland Wednesday night and did not endorse the party’s nominee, Donald Trump, then doubled down in a meeting with the Texas delegation.
There, he was asked about his commitment to support the eventual GOP nominee, even if it was Trump.
“The day that became abrogated was the day that became personal,” Cruz said. “I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father. And that pledge was not a blanket commitment that if you [attack] Heidi I’m going to nonetheless go like a servile puppy dog” and follow the pledge.
“Lying Ted is a treacherous turncoat,” political consultant Roger Stone said in an instant message to WND after Cruz had been booed off the RNC stage in Cleveland.
Stone compared Cruz’s refusal to endorse Trump to Nelson Rockefeller’s 1964 refusal to endorse then GOP presidential nominee Barry Goldwater in a move that permanently damaged Rockefeller’s presidential ambitions.
Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort explained on NBC’s “Today” show that Cruz’s decision not to endorse Trump displayed “very poor judgment.”
Politico reported Cruz explained he had given the Trump campaign three days advance notice that he was not planning to endorse the GOP presidential nominee but that he did not rule out an endorsement in the future.
“I am watching and listening to make that decision,” Cruz said, as reported by Politico. “The election isn’t today. What I don’t intend to do is to go out and throw rocks at Donald. I don’t intend to criticize him.”
CNN had reported that conservative talk radio’s Laura Ingraham urged “holdouts” in supporting Trump that they should honor their pledge.
Cruz had urged, during his convention speech, voters to not stay home, but to “stand and speak and vote your conscience.”
But it was that phrase, vote your conscience, that the anti-Trump movement has rallied around.
CNN reported that the GOP convention was featuring “stunning political theater” and the clash “suggested Cruz believes Trump will lose in November.”
“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. Cruz, who has long sought the support of GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson, was turned away when he tried to enter Adelson’s suite.”
Trump tweeted that while Cruz “didn’t honor the pledge,” it also was “no big deal.”
But ABC reported that Cruz described his speech, in which he congratulated Trump but didn’t endorse, as an “outline” of winning in November.
“What I wanted to do last night is lay out the principles I believe we stand for as Republicans,” he said.
At CNN was the summation that Cruz “unleashed a torrent of criticism and condemnation from his fellow Republicans.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who called the speech “awful,” said, “And I think the performance you saw up there is why Ted has so richly deserved the reputation he’s developed on Capitol Hill.”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was seen as smoothing over troubled waters when he pointed out that Cruz’s encouragement to vote for the one who would support the Constitution amounted to an indirect plug for Trump.
“When he said in his speech that you could vote your conscience as long as it was for somebody who supported the Constitution, that by definition meant you’re not talking about Hillary Clinton,” Gingrich told CNN.
And the report quoted New York Rep. Peter King saying, “Tonight, America saw the real Ted Cruz. He’s a fraud, he’s a self-centered liar and should be disqualified from ever being considered as a nominee for president of the United States in the future.”
“Lucifer is back,” John Boehner said after viewing Cruz’s speech, according to the former House speaker’s spokesman. The insult was a reference to Boehner’s claim, back in April, that the Texas senator is “Lucifer in the flesh” and a “miserable son of a b—h.”
“Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson told Cruz to get behind Trump during an appearance on “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning.
“You lost, he won,” said Robertson.
Cruz’s Virginia campaign chairman, Richard Black, said it was “doubtful” he would continue to support the Texas senator.
“In the end, each individual has a duty to the nation that transcends the duty to yourself, and that’s where I think he failed,” Black told CNN.
At Vox was the comment, “Ted Cruz is betting Trump will lose disastrously in November and he can pick up the pieces.”
And the New Republic’s Brian Beutler noted, “Ted Cruz’s betrayal of Donald Trump was brilliant … If his bet pays off, he’ll be the presumptive frontrunner in the 2020 primary.”
WND reported Wednesday night Cruz’s speech was vintage Cruz – calling for American to return to freedom and the rule of law.
But as the speech came to crescendo, the crowd in Cleveland began to realize he would not be endorsing Trump.
Instead of saying “vote for Trump,” Cruz called on Republicans to “vote your conscience.”
It was noteworthy, because one of the main objectives of presidential nominating conventions is party unity.
The development followed a campaign that featured charges and counter-charges between Trump and Cruz, who began the race on friendly terms and kind words. It degenerated with Trump calling Cruz “Lyin’ Ted,” and Cruz calling Trump a serial philanderer.
Cruz also has said he will run for president in 2020, no matter who wins the election in 2016.