Remember during the first debate when all the Republicans in the primary were asked if they would pledge their support to the eventual Republican nominee? The only person who said they wouldn’t was Donald Trump – earning him a round of boos and criticism from the other candidates.
And look what actually happened. Donald Trump is the nominee – and Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and Ted Cruz haven’t endorsed him. In fact, only one of those candidates listed bothered to even attend the Republican National Convention: Ted Cruz. He spoke… and still refused to endorse Trump.
Ted Cruz walked onto the stage here Wednesday night to a standing ovation, but left to deafening boos. It was the strangest, most surreal sequence of a Republican convention that has been defined by disorderly proceedings and dreamlike speeches from an odd collection of established politicians, conservative activists, and quasi-celebrities.
“I congratulate Donald Trump on winning the nomination last night,” he said mere moments into his remarks, earning booming applause from an audience that seemed to anticipate a forthcoming endorsement of the presumptive nominee. Instead, it was the only time Cruz mentioned Trump’s name in what was easily the day’s most anticipated speech.
“We deserve leaders who stand for principle, unite us all behind shared values, cast aside anger for love. That is the standard we should expect from everybody,” Cruz said. As the arena began to buzz, Cruz delivered two fateful lines. First: “And to those listening, please, don’t stay home in November.” The audience erupted with applause, clearly expecting an endorsement of Trump. Instead, Cruz then added: “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.”
Sections of the crowd began to boo loudly: “Vote your conscience” was the rallying cry of the anti-Trump mutiny that tried and failed to re-write the GOP’s rules and oust him as the party’s nominee. Cruz’s words, intentionally or not, seemed to salute those rebels — and Trump’s supporters inside the convention hall weren’t having it.