CLEVELAND, July 21, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Senator Ted Cruz refused to endorse Donald Trump during his speech to the Republican National Convention last night, telling voters instead to “vote your conscience,” a move some are calling a betrayal and others an act of courage.
“Don't stay home in November,” he told voters. “Stand, and speak, and vote your conscience,” he said slowly and deliberately as GOP delegates burst into boos and catcalls. “Vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.”
An incensed crowd erupted into chants of “We want Trump!” Two anonymous sources told Time magazine that the “Trump team actively whipped” up the jeers. When asked, campaign manager Paul Manafort reportedly “just grinned and chuckled,” although some state delegates say the negative reaction they saw was spontaneous.
Security escorted Sen. Cruz’s wife, Heidi, out of Quicken Loans Arena as one delegate shouted “Goldman Sachs!” - the international banking firm where Mrs. Cruz works. Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinnelli also walked with her part of the way to the door.
Although media reports initially said Donald Trump walked into public view on the convention floor as Cruz spoke about conscience, video reveals he stepped out visibly at the end of the speech, when he applauded and waved at the delegates, switching their focus to himself.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who followed Cruz on stage, quipped that “Ted Cruz said, ‘you can vote your conscience for anyone who will uphold the Constitution.’ 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.”
Sen. Cruz said Mr. Trump’s attacks on his family during a heated primary fight, which left Cruz as the last man standing, tipped his decision not to back his candidacy. He hoped a Republican candidate would “cast aside anger for love,” he said in his speech.
“I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father,” he told GOP delegates this morning. “And that pledge was not a blanket commitment that if you slander and attack Heidi I'm going to nonetheless go like a servile puppy dog."
Trump campaign pre-approved the speech
Although the statement took the convention by surprise, the Trump campaign approved Cruz’s speech, sans endorsement, two hours before the senator took stage. The Trump camp said it was informed Cruz would not endorse two days before the speech; an anonymous source told Ben Shapiro’s website The Daily Wire they knew “weeks” earlier.
Donald Trump dismissed Sen. Cruz’s non-endorsement as “no big deal.”
Cruz took more flack before he ever gave his speech from talk show host Laura Ingraham who, in a rousing 17-minute speech, called on everyone – "even you boys with wounded feelings and bruised egos” – to “honor your pledge to support Donald Trump now – tonight.”
Cruz is not the first non-endorsement
Sen. Cruz’s non-endorsement is not entirely unprecedented in presidential politics – but his specific wording went further than any candidate in recent political history. At the last contested Republican convention in Kansas City 40 years ago, Ronald Reagan did not specifically use the phrase “endorse” in his off-the-cuff speech alongside Gerald Ford, but he called for Republican voters to stand “united” for “victory” in November. Although the two had a chilly relationship, Reagan campaigned for Ford in 25 states.
Democrat Ted Kennedy used similarly vague language, and gave a cool reception, to Jimmy Carter four years later.
After a particularly bitter primary fight in 1992, once and future California Governor Jerry Brown did not endorse Democrat Bill Clinton, but his speech did not hint that voters should not support the nominee. Despite questioning Hillary Clinton’s integrity in 1992, Brown – who is again governor – endorsed Hillary Clinton this year.
Criticism of Cruz's speech was swift, inside and outside the Republican Party. Former 2016 rival Mike Huckabee called Cruz “self-absorbed” alleging that by breaking the pledge all GOP hopefuls took to support the eventual nominee, Cruz did his best to “earn the monicker ‘Lyin’ Ted.’” Sarah Palin described the abrogated promise as “career-ending.” Gov. Chris Christie called the speech “awful” and “selfish.” Immediately after the speech, Sen. Cruz tried to enter the suite of Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson, a social liberal who supports abortion-on-demand, but was turned away.
But some in the “Never Trump” movement appreciated his words, coming after they lost an important procedural vote on the floor. Talk show host Mark Levin, who worked in the Reagan campaigns, defended Cruz, saying, “If Donald Trump wants to win, their political guns need to be focused on the real enemy.” Trump’s supporters, he said, “are goose-stepping.” Talk show host Steve Deace called his speech “a mic drop” moment. Amanda Carpenter at Conservative Review wrote that “Cruz stayed true and gave those concerned with Trump a reminder of what the other members of the Republican Party can and should stand for even though unworthy leader looms among us.” And blogger Matt Walsh wrote at The Blaze that he “can’t quite find the controversial part” of Cruz’s remarks. “His pledge to support his wife and father — both of whom were viciously attacked and slandered by Donald Trump — supersedes a pledge to a political party.”
A broken promise? Both Trump and Cruz backed off the pledge in March
Critics have said Ted Cruz broke a promise he and all GOP candidates made to support the eventual nominee. Last fall, the Republican Party asked all presidential hopefuls to sign a statement vowing, “I [name] affirm that if I do not win the 2016 Republican nomination for president of the United States I will endorse the 2016 Republican presidential nominee regardless of who it is.” All candidates reportedly did so.
On March 12, Cruz said, "I committed at the outset, I will support the Republican nominee, whoever it is.” A day later, he reiterated he would support the Republican nominee, adding, “When I give my word for something, I follow through and do what I said.”
However, later that month, all three remaining GOP presidential hopefuls – including Donald Trump – backed out of the pledge. When Donald Trump was asked if he still stood by the promise, he answered, “No, I don’t.”
The same night Cruz told Anderson Cooper, “I'm not in the habit of supporting someone who attacks my wife and attacks my family.”
An endorsement of Hillary Clinton or Gary Johnson?
Rush Limbaugh told his audience a statement that people should not vote for his party’s nominee could be misinterpreted by “low-information voters” as Cruz giving his permission to vote for Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton tweeted out a statement today seeming to claim just that:
Meanwhile, Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson – who supports abortion-on-demand and opposes conscience rights for Christians – said that Cruz “did say to vote for Gary Johnson, didn't he?”
This morning, in a speech to the Texas delegation to the GOP convention, Sen. Cruz stated that he was “not voting for Hillary” and had no intention of saying anything negative about Donald Trump.
Cruz aides have told the press that the senator already plans to run for the presidential nomination in 2020.
“His gamble is that Trump is going to lose, and in a few years, he’s going to be seen as Winston Churchill,” said Rush Limbaugh, who said he believed it was poor strategy. “The problem is Cruz is not Churchill, in that he doesn’t start out with a lot of love and affection in the party.”
Another issue is that Cruz is not the only Republican keeping his distance from the party’s nominee.
Jeb Bush boycotted the convention, writing that he had not yet determined whether he will “support the Libertarian ticket or write in a candidate.” Ohio Gov. John Kasich is not attending the convention, being held in Cleveland, nor has he endorsed Mr. Trump. Sen. Lindsey Graham also said he would not support Trump.
But Chris Christie and Dr. Ben Carson have played a role in his campaign. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who once called on other candidates to drop out and coalesce behind an anti-Trump candidate, said last night that “Donald Trump is standing with the American people.” Other critics, including Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry, publicly back Trump.
Donald Trump will formally accept the presidential nomination tonight in the RNC’s final night.