07/20/2016 09:57 pm 21:57:19
CLEVELAND ― Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) saw his big moment at the Republican National Convention drowned out by thunderous boos on Wednesday night as he notably declined to endorse his former foe Donald Trump for president.
The speech had started with a diametrically different tone. Cruz came out to a hero’s welcome, and earned sustained applause as he laid out a conservative case for governance.
“We deserve an immigration system that puts America first. And yes, builds a wall to keep us safe,” said the senator, in a nod to the now formal Republican presidential nominee.
But the crowd, led by the New York delegation, grew notably restless as the speech went on and Cruz refused to mention Trump’s name. Cruz acknowledged them ― “I appreciate the enthusiasm of the New York delegation” ― but kept soldiering on, a slight smirk on his face.
The restlessness turned to outright jeers when Cruz told the crowd to “vote your conscience” ― a phrase that has been adopted by the group of Republicans who had asked delegates to not coronate Trump as the nominee. And when he declared that Republicans are “fighting, not for one particular candidate or one campaign,” the boos began. Trump’s children looked on from their box seats, stoic and not applauding.
As the speech entered its closing stages, Cruz had completely lost the crowd. Screams of “endorse” came from the rafters. John Antoniello, the Chairman of the Staten Island GOP, helped lead them.
“It didn’t seem to me he was ever going to say it,” Antoniello told The Huffington Post. Antoniello said he “cheated” by looking back at the TelePrompTer visible behind him, under the camera riser, and “could see he wasn’t saying it.” And so he started chanting louder: “Endorse Trump.”
If the situation wasn’t chaotic enough, it rose a level higher in that moment. In an act of pure showmanship, the room’s eyes turned back to that Trump booth. The candidate had perfectly timed his entrance to take away attention from his former primary foe.
Cruz had been upstaged while standing on the stage. Critics will say that he had tried to be too clever by half. But the truth is, much of Wednesday night’s drama shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Over the course of the week at the Republican National Convention, one of the more entertaining side shows has been the battle among Republican elites to position themselves for the 2020 election. And no politician has been on the receiving end of more of that 2020 chatter ― facilitated, in part, by his top adviser ― than Cruz. more