Cruz booed after not endorsing Trump at GOP convention
Cleveland — Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz congratulated Donald Trump on winning a bitter presidential nomination battle during a Wednesday Republican National Convention, but did not offer outright support for the GOP’s new standard bearer.
Quicken Loans Arena broke out in boos from delegates in the crowd, drowning out Cruz at the end of his 23-minute speech after he did not endorse his presidential primary rival.
After the speech, Trump shrugged off the controversy on Twitter.
"Wow, Ted Cruz got booed off the stage, didn't honor the pledge!" the New York businessman tweeted. "I saw his speech two hours early but let him speak anyway. No big deal!"
The controversy overshadowed the speech by Trump's running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who lauded the billionaire as someone "who never quits."
Pence talked about his roots growing up in southern Indiana, making a joke about how he’s not well known outside of his home state. “For those of you who don’t know, which is most of you,” he quipped.
The second-term Indiana governor and former congressman sought to calm the nerves of Republicans who remain skeptical that Trump will be a conservative president, while going after presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, calling her “secretary of the status quo.”
"In the end, this election comes down to just two names on the ballot so let's resolve here and now that Hillary Clinton will never become president of the United States of America,” Pence said. “Hillary Clinton essentially offers a third Obama term.”
But most of the attention centered on Cruz's speech. The senator urged his supporters in the GOP’s conservative wing to head to the polls in November, though he did not specifically tell them to get behind Trump’s campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state. He emphasized that Americans need more freedom to choose their schools, use the Internet as they see fit and practice their religion.
“And to those listening, please, don’t stay home in November,” Cruz said. “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.”
Trump appeared to try to steal Cruz’s thunder by appearing in Quick Loans Arena before the senator ended his speech, giving a thumbs-up to the crowd as delegates began to realize his presence. The New York businessman then proceeded to exit the arena before Cruz finished the speech but reappeared a few minutes later to hear the speech by his son, Eric Trump.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a close Trump ally, sought to clarify Cruz’s comments during his own speech before Pence accepted the GOP’s vice presidential nomination.
“Ted Cruz said you can vote your conscience for anyone who will uphold the Constitution,” Gingrich said, briefly veering from his prepared remarks. “In this election, there’s only one candidate who will uphold the Constitution. … If you want to protect the constitution, I’d say the only possible candidate this fall is the Trump-Pence ticket.”
Cruz and Trump waged an acrimonious and often nasty battle against each other until the Texas senator ended his White House campaign in early May, when the New York businessman’s delegate count became insurmountable.
Trump launched personal attacks on Cruz, nicknaming him “Lying Ted” and posting an unflattering photo of Cruz’s wife on Twitter after an anti-Trump group spread a nude photo of his wife, Melania. Before suffering a devastating loss in the May 3 Indiana primary, Cruz called Trump a “serial philanderer” and “pathological liar” who “doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies.”
“I congratulate Donald Trump on winning the nomination last night,” Cruz said near the beginning of his speech. “And like each of you, I want to see the principles that our party believes in prevail in November.”
The senator never mentioned Trump again in the address, but did make a fleeting reference to the central tenet of Trump’s campaign to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We deserve an immigration system that puts America first,” Cruz said, “and, yes, builds a wall to keep America safe.”
The Texas senator was among the GOP candidates who pledged to support the eventual nominee. But he and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, whose state is hosting the convention, have withheld their support.
Trump campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson urged Cruz to keep his pledge commitment in a Fox News interview prior to the senator’s speech.
The speeches by former GOP foes came before Pence’s address, which campaign officials saw as an important opportunity to reassure the doubters. In a show of unity, the Indiana governor was introduced by House Speaker Paul Ryan, a lukewarm Trump supporter, and laid out his reasons for partnering with the celebrity businessman who is in many ways his opposite.
Michigan Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, said earlier Wednesday he thinks Pence will help Trump in Midwest states like Michigan and especially with social conservatives.
“Most people don’t perceive him as being as strong as Gov. Pence would be on social issues, so I think that’s going to be helpful,” Meekhof said.
Lt. Gov. Brian Calley also praised the Pence selection earlier this week, saying his combination of executive governance and legislative experience will be “a huge asset to Donald Trump” if he wins the White House.
While Cruz danced around Trump, fellow former rival Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker offered a full-throated endorsement during his own prime-time speech.
America “deserves better” than Clinton, and Republicans cannot wait four more years to “get ’em next time,” said Walker, who dropped his presidential bid in September but fought against Trump in Wisconsin’s April 5 primary that Cruz won.
“Let me be clear: A vote for anyone other than Donald Trump in November is a vote for Hillary Clinton,” he told delegates.
Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who also battled Trump until suffering an embarrassing primary defeat in his home state, addressed the delegates through a video and contrasted Trump versus Clinton.
“Unlike Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump is committed to cut taxes, curb spending and get our national debt under control,” Rubio said. “… After a long and spirited primary, the time for fighting each other is over. It’s time to come together.”
By contrast, Cruz used his speech Wednesday night to compare the GOP’s principles of limited government with Clinton’s governing philosophy.
“Hillary Clinton believes government should make virtually every choice in your life,” he said. “Education, healthcare, marriage, speech — all dictated out of Washington.”
“The case we have to make to the American people, the case each person in this room has to make to the American people, is to commit to each of them that we will defend freedom and be faithful to the constitution,” he said later in the speech. “We will unite the party, we unite the country by standing together for shared values and by standing for liberty.”
Boos immediately broke out in the arena as Cruz exited the stage.
State Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, said he was “very disappointed, even disgusted” by Cruz’s speech despite agreeing with much of the message.
“Clearly there was a purposeful omission, and to me that reeks of being a sore loser,” McBroom said. “I was really let down by Ted tonight, probably more than I’ve ever been let down by any politician I’ve ever supported.”
Jared Maynard of Macomb County, who called himself a Marco Rubio supporter, said he had “more class” than to boo Cruz but was furious with him.
“You signed a pledge. You said you’d back the nominee, so back the nominee,” Maynard said. “...It’s just unbelievable to me. They had a process, and Donald won. That’s it.”
Tim Brown of Westland, attending the convention as a delegate for Kasich, said Cruz deserves credit for showing up, congratulating Trump and telling Republicans to vote “up and down” the ticket.
“That’s good enough,” Brown said. “It was a brutal fight, and Trump wasn’t very nice to him. Trump is a different kind of fellow – he’s not politically correct in any kind of way – but I give Ted Cruz credit.”
Former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis, who worked as a senior adviser for the Cruz campaign, said Cruz may decide to endorse Trump later in the election cycle as more of his policy ideas come into focus.
“I think Cruz is kind of the de facto leader of the conservative movement in America, and I think there’s a lot of people depending on him to stand on principle and be a guiding light,” Anuzis said. “There’s still a lot of concern as to where Donald Trump will be on different issues.”
He said Cruz is not “anti-Trump” and he expects him to vote for the Republican nominee this fall even if he decides against endorsing Trump at the convention.
Alabama U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, one of Cruz’s friends in the Senate and a close Trump ally, downplayed the need for Cruz to fully endorse Trump in an interview Wednesday evening on the convention floor.
“I don’t think it means a whole lot,” Sessions told The Detroit News. “I think he’ll come around and he’s coming around. This is a tough campaign. He was the last one standing. Trump dispatched 16 and he was the 16th. So he ran a formidable race.”
Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema of Grandville, who endorsed Cruz in the Michigan primary, said did not appreciate the boos but said he wished Cruz would have endorsed Trump as the party nominee.
“I think there’s a rift between the two of them. I don’t know if that will ever be repaired,” Agema said.
State Sen. Patrick Colbeck of Canton Township, who chaired Cruz’s Michigan campaign, attended a Thursday afternoon gathering in Cleveland where he said Cruz thanked supporters but said little about Trump.
“There’s not a ton of people enthused about Donald Trump, but when you start looking at what the alternative is, the enthusiasm starts increasing a bit,” he said, referencing Clinton.
Colbeck said Cruz did not mention any future campaign plans at the afternoon gathering, “but a lot of his supporters did” and would probably back him “in a heartbeat” if he ran again for president.
“I think ‘Hindsight is 2020’ is a good campaign slogan for 2020,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed