CLEVELAND — Republicans are scorching Texas Sen. Ted Cruz after his refusal to endorse Donald Trump at the party's national convention Wednesday night.
Cruz received a chorus of boos as he urged voters to "vote your conscience." The speech by the runner-up in this year's G.O.P. primaries overshadowed what was supposed to be the roll-out of Trump’s vice presidential pick, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
Cruz mentioned Trump just once, offering to “congratulate Donald Trump on winning the nomination last night.” Trump and his campaign for the White House were never mentioned again and no endorsement was offered.
Cruz also picked at the wounds left over from Monday’s fight over rules that would have, in the minds of some backers of the changes, help smooth the path for a Cruz presidential run in 2020. He urged delegates to “vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and be faithful to the Constitution.”
The delegates quickly responded, as chants of “Mention his name, you traitor,” and “Trump, Trump, Trump,” along with boos and cheers, echoed through the convention hall.
The crowd even turned on Cruz’s wife, Heidi, shouting insults at her and calling out her husband’s refusal to endorse Trump in his speech.
The speech “was all about Ted, and it spoke volumes about his unwillingness to admit he lost, and inability to move on,” Ned Ryun, founder and CEO of the grassroots organizing group American Majority, told AMI Newswire. “You don’t make that kind of speech in this venue, angering donors, party leaders and delegates.”
Trump himself seemed largely to brush it off.
On Twitter, Trump said “Wow. Cruz got booed off the stage, didn’t honor the pledge. I saw his speech two hours early but let him speak anyway. No big deal!”
Trump also appeared in the wings as Cruz was speaking, drawing the delegates' attention and giving them a thumbs up as they alternately cheered him and continued to boo Cruz.
“Cruz probably endeared himself to portions of the crowd, no question,” Ryun said. “But his silence in the fall to the Trump campaign, the truce they had for months, to turn around and do what he did in that speech speaks volumes about Cruz’s character.”
Cruz spokesman Ron Nehring noted on Twitter that there were “no surprises in the speech,” and that both the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee were provided the remarks well in advance.
The speech was “utterly singular” and “remarkable,” said Rick Wilson, a political consultant and an organizer of an anti-Trump super PAC.
Talk radio host Steve Deace, a friend and longtime backer of Cruz, said the speech set the stage for a “real revolution” based on conservative ideals.
Writing at the Conservative Review website, Deace said Cruz’s remarks also showed what the GOP has become under Trump’s dominance.
What people saw Wednesday night was “a cult of personality, which has hijacked the carcass on the side of the road the GOP has become,” Deace wrote.