Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who lost the Republican nomination to Donald Trump, shocked the GOP convention Wednesday night by conspicuously refusing to endorse him in his bid against Hillary Clinton for the presidency in November.
The speech was vintage Cruz in many ways – hearkening America back 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 a remarkable moment in presidential nominating conventions that emphasize party unity.
The development followed a rough-and-tumble campaign of 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 has said he will run for president in 2020, no matter who wins the election in 2016.
So angry were some at the convention, Heidi Cruz had to be escorted out of the hall by former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
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Before the speech, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie warned Cruz to keep his word and endorse the winner of the nomination as he pledged to do at the beginning of the campaign.
And if the Texas senator and former GOP primary rival does not, Christie warned, he will show himself to be “less of a person than he presents himself to be for the American people.”
“If you want to sign the pledge, adhere to the pledge, and I just think you’re supposed to keep your word,” Christie told CNN’s Jake Tapper during a forum hosted by the group Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security. Christie was referring to the pledge all candidates signed last year vowing to support the eventual nominee.
“To those listening, please, don’t stay home in November,” Cruz said, a plea that suggested he was about to endorse.
Instead, Cruz said: “If you love our country and love your children as much as I know that you do, stand and speak and vote your conscience. Vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.”
When the boos and chants of “We want Trump” began toward the end of Cruz’s speech, he offered wryly, “I appreciate the enthusiasm of the New York delegation.”
At that point convention-goers, including delegates, began to boo loudly. As Cruz concluded his speech, cameras cut to Trump arriving in the arena, giving the crowd a thumbs-up.
Trump later responded via Twitter:
“Wow, Ted Cruz got booed off the stage, didn’t honor the pledge! I saw his speech two hours early but let him speak anyway. No big deal!”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and a presidential candidate in 2012 followed Cruz’s speech by attempting to deflect any damage it might have caused by saying, “I’m also proud to be here to see the extra effort Donald Trump has invested in bring the Republican Party together. With no requirement for endorsement, he encouraged his competitors to speak once again. Gov. Rick Perry, Gov. Chris Christie, Gov. Scott Walker, Dr. Ben Carson, Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz have all responded to Donald Trump’s generosity.”
Gingrich noted that people may have misunderstood Cruz when he said to “vote your conscience.”
“I think you misunderstood one paragraph that Ted Cruz, who is a superb orator, said, and I just want to point it out to you. Ted Cruz said, ‘you can vote your conscience for anyone who will uphold the Constitution,'” Gingrich said.
“In this election, there is only one candidate who will uphold the Constitution. So, to paraphrase Ted Cruz, if you want to protect the Constitution of the United States, the only possible candidate this fall is the Trump/Pence Republican ticket. That way we have a Republican ticket to implement Republican principles in Washington.”