CLEVELAND — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz was booed as he left the stage of the Republican National Convention on Wednesday, after he offered presidential nominee his congratulations, but withheld his endorsement.
The raucous reaction to the snub overshadowed the debut of Mike Pence as the vice-presidential nominee and could color Trump’s acceptance speech on Thursday, the final day of the convention.
Cruz began one of the longest speeches of the GOP convention like this:
“I want to congratulate Donald Trump on winning the nomination last night. And like each of you, I want to see the principles that our party believes prevail in November.”
Cruz discoursed on the Dallas shootings, liberty, states’ rights, and violence in America. Here’s how he teased the crowd at the end:
“We deserve leaders who stand for principle, who unite us all behind shared values. Who cast aside anger for love. That is the standard we should expect from everybody.”
A restless arena crowd grew even more so. Cruz continued:
“And to those listening: Please, don’t stay home in November. If you love our country and love your children as much as I know that you do, stand and speak and vote for your conscience. Vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the constitution.”
“Conscience” was the loaded word, given previous arguments — lost by social conservatives — over whether delegates were obliged to observe the results of their state primaries and caucuses. Many of the delegates simply crossed their arms and remained silent. But most didn’t. They began shouting, “We want Trump!” (He had entered the hall as Cruz was speaking.)
Said Cruz: “I appreciate the enthusiasm of the New York delegation.” And he kept talking, staring straight into the camera, about his parents. Watch here:
As his most formidable opponent, Cruz was savaged by Trump during the primary as “Lyin’ Ted.” The billionaire had even suggested that Trump’s father, a Cuban immigrant, had some connection to the assassination of JFK in 1963.
Even so, expectations from the Trump campaign had been high. At a morning press conference, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was asked what he expected from Cruz in his speech. “I think he’ll give a sign of where he is on Donald Trump that will be pleasing to the Trump campaign and the audience,” Manafort said.
Clearly that wasn’t the case. Even in spite of a near-threat from radio host Laura Ingraham aimed at all three Trump rivals who were to speak Wednesday evening — Cruz, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Said Ingraham:
“I want to say this very plainly. We should all — even all you boys with wounded feelings and bruised egos, and we love you – but you must honor your pledge to support Donald Trump now. Tonight. Tonight. I hope they are listening.”
Rubio appeared at a distance, on video, attacking Hillary Clinton. But he also gave mention to Trump as a tax-cutter, the better candidate when it comes to fighting terrorism, and as a reliable selector of federal judges.
But Walker quickly declared that “Donald Trump is standing with the American people.” The Wisconsin governor specifically mentioned the pledge all 17 Republican presidential candidates made last year at a first debate in Cleveland, in this same arena, to support whichever one of them won the nomination.
“I meant it then, and I mean it now,” Walker said. “So let me be clear. A vote for anyone other than Donald Trump in November is a vote for Hillary Clinton.”
Funny thing. On Twitter, Trump congratulated both Ingraham and Walker for their speeches:
But no mention from Trump about Ted Cruz.
The immediate reaction in the Georgia delegation was mixed, but Cruz had the support of David Shafer, president pro tem of the Senate, and Scott Johnson, former chairman of the Cobb County GOP: