TED Cruz on Thursday strongly defended his refusal to endorse Donald Trump during his Republican National Convention speech, saying he’s not “in the habit” of backing politicians who attack his family.
“I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father,” Cruz said at a morning meeting where he faced sharp questions from the Texas delegation in Cleveland.
The Texas senator sensationally withheld an endorsement of Trump in his speech Wednesday, earning a chorus of boos from the floor while getting upstaged in a power play by the GOP nominee himself.
In a dramatic development, as Cruz wrapped up his speech, Trump suddenly appeared in the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. He walked to join his family in a VIP area and flashed a thumbs-up — a gesture that transmitted clear anger at the Texas senator’s behavior.
Cruz, his party’s runner-up, uttered Trump’s name just once — to congratulate him — and instead pitched the ideological brand of conservatism that endears him to the GOP’s base.
“I congratulate Donald Trump on winning the nomination last night,” Cruz said. “And like each of you, I want to see the principles that our party believes prevail in November.”
But as it was clear Cruz was going to end his speech without endorsing Trump, delegates began to boo and some chanted “We want Trump!”
“Don’t stay home in November,” Cruz said toward the end of his otherwise very well-received speech. “Stand and speak and vote your conscience.”
As delegates began to protest, Sen. Cruz’s wife, Heidi Cruz, was heckled by Trump supporters shouting “Goldman Sachs!” and escorted out by security. Heidi Cruz, who is an employee of Goldman Sachs, declined to answer questions from reporters, saying, “I don’t talk to the media, thanks.”
The stunning political theater between the top two contenders in the Republican primary race blew open divisions in the party that the convention is designed to heal, and suggested Cruz believes Trump will lose in November.
Cruz’s appearance at the Cleveland convention had been the subject of intense anticipation over his attitude toward Trump, after their intensely personal exchanges in the late stages of the primary race.
He got a prolonged standing ovation as he walked on stage for a speech that appeared to be an attempt to establish himself as the guardian of conservative values that some activists doubt Trump shares.