Anger grips Republican convention as Cruz snubs Trump
Texan booed and jeered as he sensationally withholds his endorsement of billionaire
Anger and rage ripped through the Republican Party’s national convention in Cleveland on Wednesday night when Texas senator Ted Cruz refused in his prime-time speech to endorse the party’s presidential nominee Donald Trump.
After months of mud-slinging and personal insults between two bitter rivals during one of the most acrimonious primary elections in generations, the loser refused to bow to the victor in a stunning snub of the candidate who won the most primary votes of any Republican candidate in history.
The freshman Texas senator, a conservative firebrand famed for his rebellious streak and unpopularity in Congress, was booed from stage after he told Republicans to vote their conscience in the November 8th election and declined to offer his endorsement of the New York businessman.
He sparked scenes of fury around the convention hall and one of the most dramatic moments at a modern US political party convention. It was a level of vitriol not seen since 1964 when New York governor Nelson Rockefeller was booed after calling on Republicans to repudiate ideological extremists.
The clash undermined renewed efforts by the party to restore order to a Republican convention already shaken by internal revolts and a plagiarism scandal involving Mr Trump’s wife Melania.
The refusal of a prime-time speaker at a national convention to back the party’s presidential nominee is highly unusual and followed a number of speakers last night who supported Mr Trump but barely mentioned his name during their addresses to the Republican gathering.
The Texas senator cast another shadow over the party’s efforts to unify the party through the introduction later last night of vice-presidential candidate, Indiana governor Mike Pence, a bridge-building candidate chosen to appease social conservatives alienated by the thrice-married Mr Trump (70) and his bombastic campaign.
Mr Cruz, a man nicknamed “Lyin’ Ted” by Mr Trump during the primary campaign, delivered his hammer blow to Mr Trump’s reunification efforts several speakers before Mr Pence (57) arrived on stage to accept the party’s vice-presidential nomination.
“Please don’t stay home in November,” Mr Cruz implored the crowd. “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.”
His words were a clear non-endorsement of Mr Trump given his repeated questioning of the billionaire’s conservative credentials during their brutal primary fight.
Republican delegates across the convention floor and around the Quicken Loans Arena interrupted him with loud boos and chants of “We want Trump!” and “Say his name!”
Delegates from New York on the convention floor, immediately in front of the podium, shouted and gesticulated angrily at the Texas senator, chanting: “En-dorse Trump! En-dorse Trump!”
“I appreciate the enthusiasm of the New York delegation,” he said, deviating off script to acknowledge the rage bubbling up among the delegates on the floor to his right.
Members of Mr Trump’s family sat stony-faced in the VIP seats at the back of the arena. So too did New Jersey governor Chris Christie, another vanquished Republican primary contender now advising Mr Trump, who was sitting among the delegates from his home state.
Mr Trump contributed to the drama of Mr Cruz’s act of insurgency by entering the arena to join his family just as the Texan left the stage to deafening boos and jeers echoing around the arena.
In a scene that could have been lifted from one of his reality-TV show, the property and entertainment mogul waved, gave the thumbs and applauded supporters, whipping up the audience and milking the cheers and applause as the Texas senator wrapped up his speech.
Hillary Clinton, Mr Trump’s Democratic rival, jumped on Cruz’s revolt, tweeting: “Vote your conscience,” and a link to her website.
Shortly after the convention ended with Mr Pence’s well-received, self-deprecating speech, Mr Trump tweeted: “Wow, Ted Cruz got booed off the stage, didn’t honour the pledge! I saw his speech two hours early but let him speak anyway. No big deal!”
Speaking shortly after Mr Cruz on the podium, Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the US House of Representatives, did some damage control seeking to clarify Mr Cruz’s position.
Mr Gingrich, ad-libbing, pointed out that Mr Cruz had said in his speech he would vote for any candidate who would uphold the US constitution and that this meant that the Texas senator was implicitly endorsing Mr Trump – as he would uphold the constitution – even if he did not say it.
“So to paraphrase Ted Cruz, if you want to protect the constitution this fall, there’s only one possible way and that’s to vote the Trump-Pence ticket,” he said, to cheers from the crowd.
Despite the attempt to put a positive gloss on an moment of negativity and embarrassment for Mr Trump, the Texan drew angry reactions from across the Republican political spectrum.
Delegates looked away from Mr Cruz and his wife Heidi as they walked with security staff to the upper tiers of the arena after his speech and, according to CNN, people approached him and insulted him in the arena’s suites where the party’s big donors were watching proceedings.
Mr Christie described Mr Cruz’s actions as “awful”.
“And quite frankly, I think it was something selfish. And he signed a pledge, and it’s his job to keep his word,” he said, referring to the pledge Republican officials made each candidate sign almost a year ago vowing to support the eventual nominee in order to prevent a third-party run by Mr Trump.
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, another of the party’s 16 candidates who lost to Mr Trump this year, denounced Mr Cruz’s actions, suggesting that he had his own future political ambitions in mind rather than the unity of the party. Earlier yesterday, the Texas senator’s supporters chanted: “2020! 2020!” at an event, urging him to run against for president in four years’ time.
“I saw a self-absorbed politician grab the microphone and try to line up his own future. Ted walked in tall and walked out small,” said Mr Huckabee in a post on Facebook.
On the convention floor, delegates responded to Mr Cruz’s rebellious act with strong words.
“In Texas, our word is our bond. Obviously he reiterated that he is not a true Texan tonight,” Colton Buckley (21), from Gatesville in the Lone Star State told The Irish Times.
“I am not surprised. That is what Ted Cruz is known for: bucking the system. I think it damages the party. The whole idea is that we cannot allow Hillary Clinton to be in the White House.
“Cruz signed the pledge, Donald Trump is our nominee and the party needs to come together.”
One Cruz supporter played down the internal ructions over the senator’s speech, pointing to the fact that Mr Trump and Mr Cruz have never hidden their dislike for one another.
“He did endorse him; he just didn’t say his name,” said Tammi Sturm (46) from Houston, Texas, wearing a shirt in the colours of the state flag.
“He told everybody in this room that they cannot miss voting in November. There’s only one candidate that we can vote on in November that is our nominee and that is Donald Trump.”