CLEVELAND — If you think last night’s session of the Republican National Convention was surreal, you should have been at the daily presser that was to feature Paul Manafort, the chairman of the Donald Trump presidential campaign.
There we were, cooling our heels, when someone turned on the Fox News feed. Flanking screens loudly featured a live broadcast of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, defending last night’s non-endorsement of Trump before a breakfast meeting of delegates from his home state of Texas. Said Cruz:
“I believe in free speech. Can anyone imagine our nominee standing in front of voters, answering questions like this?
In walked Manafort and other convention managers, but before a techie can obey the throat-slashing sign from another operative, Cruz drilled home his point:
“I can tell you this – if we don’t defend freedom and the Constitution and if we don’t make the case to the American people that our candidate can be trusted to defend freedom and the Constitution, we will lose and…..”
Finally, Cruz disappeared from the room, and Trump’s top aides began a briefing on the final day that will crest with the Republican presidential nominee’s speech – a speech that is likely to focus more on the personal than on policy, Manafort said.
On his own, the Trump campaign chairman praised last night’s speeches by Mike Pence and Newt Gingrich. Of Cruz, he said, “in a backhanded way” the Texas senator helped show how unified the convention hall was.
Under questioning, Manafort added this:
“There are a number of Cruz delegates who were on the floor last night, who disagreed with what Senator Cruz did, including his home state of Texas, and who – unprompted – were coming up to us, saying this wasn’t right.”
Manafort said Trump had advance knowledge of the content of Cruz’ speech, but placed no conditions on a man with whom he had a bitter rivalry during the primary. Trump implied that Cruz’ wife was something other than beautiful, and that his father was somehow involved in JFK’s assassination. Cruz called Trump a “pathological liar.”
Last night, Trump entered the convention hall just as Cruz was wrapping up his speech – which was running well overtime. Manafort denied the presidential nominee was trying to step on the Texas senator’s presentation:
“At that point in time, it was important to move Mr. Trump before the previous speaker finished in order to have him in the box before Eric [Trump] began to speech. That was the motivation.”
Manfort also expounded on the issue of the pledge GOP candidates signed onto last year during a debate in this same arena:
“He was the only speech in the convention that was poorly received by the body in the hall. That was Senator Cruz’ decision. Mr. Trump invited him because he wanted him to have the opportunity to speak.
“As to their obligations, they all signed pledges. Everybody knew about the pledges. They knew what that meant, what obligation that put on them. Senator Cruz, a strict constitutionalist, chose not to accept the strict terms of the pledge that he signed. As far as the contract was concerned, he was the one in violation, not anybody else.”
Cruz answered that particular charge at the Texas delegation breakfast. From the Fox News website:
“I’ll tell you the day that pledge was abrogated was the day this became personal — I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father,” he said.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz nearly blew the lid off the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland when he used his prime time address last night to do anything but endorse Republican nominee Donald Trump. He was essentially booed offstage by the crowd and his wife Heidi was escorted out of the arena after delegates jeered her in a stunning turn of events.
That makes Cruz’s visit to Newnan on Friday evening all the more interesting, right?
Pieces were already beginning to move earlier in the day, hours before the prime-time drama unfolded. The Georgia chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police said it was mulling a rally outside of Cruz’s 6 p.m. event with Mike Crane, in protest of the Texas lawmaker’s involvement with latter’s campaign — given the state senator’s past remarks on no-knock warrants.
Now we wonder what changes, if anything, after Cruz’s bombshell Cleveland appearance. We reached out to the Crane campaign to see, and were told the visit is still on. The Crane campaign also sent this response to the Texas senator’s speech:
“Last night, Ted Cruz offered the most stirring defense of liberty and the strongest indictment of Hillary Clinton’s policies we’ve yet heard in this campaign. That’s why I am following his advice, voting my conscience, and whole-heartedly supporting Donald Trump for President.”
We loathe to pick sides here at Political Insider, but this is A+ trolling from Hillary Clinton last night shortly after Cruz told RNC delegates to “vote your conscience.” The message from the Democrat:
Harsh: On Wednesday, the Georgia GOP delegation featured evangelical twins who had harsh words for Gov. Nathan Deal’s veto of the “religious liberty” bill.
Then came Deal chief of staff Chris Riley’s response, an allusion to the party’s financial struggles:
The Georgia delegation was among a handful of slates that welcomed Donald Trump’s flight to Cleveland:
Sen. David Perdue got primo seats to Wednesday night’s session:
We also spied U.S. Rep. Tom Price, R-Roswell.
A rough line up for Thursday evening’s session, from the Republican National Convention:
Remarks by Brock Mealer, motivational speaker
Remarks by U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (TN-7)
Remarks by Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin
Remarks by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus
Remarks by venture capitalist Peter Thiel
Remarks by CEO of Colony Capital Tom Barrack
Remarks by Ivanka Trump, EVP at The Trump Organization
Remarks by Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee