Politics

Ted Cruz Delegates Not Ready to Back Trump in November

North Carolina's Cruz delegates don't think Trump shares their values

Supporters of Ted Cruz take photos of the Texas senator at a town hall meeting in Raleigh, N.C., in March 2016. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

WARRENSVILLE HEIGHTS, Ohio — It's seersucker day for the North Carolina delegation at the Republican National Convention.  

Striped skirts, shirts, pants and dresses — mostly in blue — dotted the lobby of the Marriott where the delegation is staying.  

And then there were the red shirts.   

As the delegation congregated by the front door waiting for their bus to take them sightseeing in downtown Cleveland, a group of about five delegates wearing "Ted Cruz for President" T-shirts stood in their own small huddle.   

Donald Trump won North Carolina's March 15 primary with 40 percent of the vote. Cruz, Texas' junior senator, came in second with around 37 percent after strongly courting the state's evangelical conservatives .   

Cruz delegates knew their candidate had no chance of contesting Trump at the convention. But that's not why they came to Cleveland.   

[ North Carolinians See Cruz As Moral Choice ]  

"We chose to come because it's really not about the candidate we prefer. It's about a set of values that we hold," said delegate Rod Cheney.   

"We want someone in the White House whom our kids can look up to and say, 'Hey, I want to grow up to be like that,'" said Larry Schug, also from North Carolina.    

"A party that strays from that too far needs to be held accountable and held back," Cheney said.  

Even though Trump easily secured the votes he needed Tuesday night to secure the nomination on the floor, these Cruz supporters could take some solace in their observations that enthusiasm for the nominee is lacking at this convention.   

"What you're seeing at this convention, which blows my mind, is the lack of passion," Cheney said.  

Fellow Cruz delegate Jean Griswold said she noticed a certain "flatness," with delegates showing little interest in the speeches, and the floor emptying out before the scheduled programming is over.   

"That's going to translate into something," Cheney said. "We're just not sure what yet."   

"There are those of us who would march over broken glass, go through fire with empty squirt guns — not for our candidate but for a set of principles," Cheney said.  

[ The Strategy That Could Have Taken Trump Down ]  

Cruz diehards said they are excited that he's addressing the convention Wednesday night, but they don't expect him to endorse the nominee. They're not ready to do that either. In fact, they're not sure what they're going to do in November.   

"We've got a grieving processes to go through on a personal level. And we have a watching process to go through on a joint level as we watch what the national GOP does," Griswold said.  

Trump hasn't begun to woo them in any way, said the delegates, who described themselves as Christians first, conservatives second and Republicans third.  

And the selection of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence hasn't alleviated their concerns.  

"Trump's a one-man show as far as I'm concerned," Cheney said.  

"He's not going to listen to anybody else," Griswold said.   

What's more concerning to these delegates is the idea that Trump thinks he doesn't need conservatives to win. That could end up backfiring against him, Griswold said, since conservatives are often the activists most engaged in grass-roots campaigning.   

The Cruz delegates, of which there are 27 in the Tar Heel State's delegation, are attending most events with their seersucker-clad brethren.  

And except for a few belligerent episodes on the floor, Griswold said, interaction with the Trump delegates hasn't been problematic.   

[ Burr: 2016 Is His Last Election ]  

The Cruz supporters attended parts of a Wednesday morning buffet breakfast, where Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and North Carolina Sens. Richard M. Burr and Thom Tillis addressed the delegation.  

But for these delegates, the real treat comes Wednesday night, when they get to hear from Cruz himself. Should he lay the groundwork for another presidential bid, they'll be ready.   

"He has a ground team that is here today, that's here in 2020, that's here in 2024. Whatever he wants us to do, we're behind him," Griswold said. 

Contact Pathé at  simonepathe@rollcall.com  and follow her on Twitter at  @sfpathe .

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