Months after he started calling him Lyin’ Ted, Donald Trump appeared at a May rally in Indiana and suggested that Sen. Ted Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, had been involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
“What was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death, before the shooting?” Trump asked. “It’s horrible.”
Incensed, Cruz responded by calling Trump a narcissist and a pathological liar. On Wednesday night, Cruz exacted his revenge and refused to endorse Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention meant to unify GOP support behind his nomination.
In front of 5,000 RNC Republican delegates and a television audience of millions, Cruz at first did what he was supposed to do and declared Trump the 2016 winner fair and square. “I want to congratulate Donald Trump on winning the nomination last night,” Cruz said.
But as delegates waited for the endorsement, Cruz moved on to talk about conservative principles, devotion to family, and protecting the American dream. He spoke of a little girl who lost her father, a police officer, who died in the line of duty.
“What if this is our last time?” Cruz asked. “Did we live up to the values we really believe? Did we do all we really could?”
He urged Republicans to “vote your conscience,” but never urged them to vote for Donald Trump.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Earlier in the day, Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort indicated Cruz would endorse Trump. “We expect we’ll like what we hear,” Manafort said at a briefing. Cruz’s former campaign manager, Jeff Roe, also seemed to expect an endorsement. “I think they’ll be pleased with the speech,” he said of the Trump campaign.
But if the Trump campaign really thought Cruz had forgotten about the way Trump had treated his father and his wife (when Trump tweeted out an unflattering picture of her next to his supermodel wife, Melania), they were wrong.
And if the Trump campaign believed an endorsement was coming from Cruz, they haven’t been paying attention.
Since the day Cruz dropped out of the presidential campaign, it has been clear that his fight was only just beginning. Over the past several months, he has revamped his Washington operation to look a lot more like a White House-in-Waiting than a consolation prize.
He has hired a David Polyansky, a top adviser in the campaign, as his Senate chief of staff. He’s also launching two political non-profits “to promote conservative principles,” widely seen as laying the ground work for policies and messages for his next presidential run.
At a barbecue lunch for his supporters earlier in the day, Cruz insisted he didn’t know “what the future will hold.” But to a person, the supporters I spoke with fully expected Cruz to run again.
“Back in 2005, my wife said Ted Cruz would be president, and I still see that in his future,” said Brian McAullife, a Cruz delegate. Asked if he thought Cruz would run sooner rather than later, McAuliffe said, “That depends on how good a job Trump does as president.”
But hard feelings against Trump have remained deep among other Republicans.
Regina Thompson, Cruz’s Colorado state director and deputy director of an effort to unbind the delegates from Trump, said, “Personally, I will not support Trump. I can’t adhere to this. I will write in Ted Cruz.”
Chris Herrod, Cruz’s Utah state director, said he’s trying to get there with Trump, but he can’t say yet that he’ll vote for him. “Some of the things he’s said and written in his books are very difficult,” Herrod said. “But more than anything, I think it’s the bullying that people have a hard time with. I agree with many of his policies, but you shouldn’t be a bully.”
Even Utah’s Sen. Mike Lee, a close friend of Cruz’s, led the effort earlier this week to unbind convention delegates from voting for Trump. When asked two weeks ago why he hadn’t yet endorsed Trump, Lee listed Trump’s comments about the Kennedy assassination as the first of many reasons.
“We can get into the fact that he accused my best friend’s father of conspiring to kill JFK,” Lee said.
As it became clear Wednesday that Cruz would not endorse Trump, a chorus of boos inside the convention grew to a roar, but Cruz didn’t seem worried at all. He finished his remarks calmly and smiled as he left the spotlight, exiting into the darkness.
Did he just live up to the values he really believed in? Yes. Did he do all he really could? Yes again.
Is the Republican Party going to be united leaving this convention? Thanks to Ted Cruz and the rest of the Republicans who can’t forgive Trump’s sins, no. It won’t even be close.