Ted Cruz was booed off the stage at the Republican convention after he failed to directly endorse the man who dubbed him “Lyin’ Ted.”
Cruz congratulated Trump in his prime-time speech, but only mentioned his name once and ignored calls from convention delegates to explicitly back the nominee.
Near the end of Cruz’s speech, the crowd began chanting, “Trump, Trump, Trump,” trying to encourage Cruz to formally endorse the nominee.
But Cruz merely replied, “I appreciate the enthusiasm of the New York delegation,” continuing with his prepared remarks.
Moments later, Trump appeared in the hall as boos cascaded down on Cruz as he left the stage.
Cruz, who attacked Hillary Clinton and made nods to party unity, appeared to be keeping a firm eye on the 2020 race.
“To those listening, please, don’t stay home in November,” he said. “If you love your country and love your children as much as I know you do, stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.”
Unlike Cruz, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, another primary opponent, endorsed Trump by name in a video address, saying, “The time for fighting each other is over.”
Rubio, who traded name-calling and insults with Trump in the closing days of his campaign, praised his stances on taxes and security and made a clear call for Republicans to unite to defeat Hillary Clinton.
“It’s time to come together,” said Rubio, who is running for Senate re-election. His address lasted just over two minutes.
Cruz’s message did sync up with some of Trump’s appear as an outsider who would shake up Washington.
“Voters are overwhelmingly rejecting the political establishment and overwhelmingly saying no to big government. That is a profound victory,” he said. “People are fed up with politicians who don’t listen to them, fed up with a corrupt system that benefits the elites, instead of working men and women.”
He also backed some of Trump’s signature policies, including his call for a border wall with Mexico and his attacks on free-trade deals.
“We deserve an immigration system that puts America first,” Cruz said, “and yes, builds a wall to keep America safe.”
Cruz’s message will likely be enough to satisfy the Trump campaign, which had wanted the former primary contenders to help unify the party after a rocky start to the convention.
Selma Sierra, 58, a delegate from Draper, Utah who was a Cruz supporter, said that unless Trump does anything “outrageous,” she plans to vote for the billionaire.
“I don’t know what Mr. Trump’s plan is if he gets elected,” she said. “But I hope he does what he can to unify the party across the spectrum. What happened this week did not convince me.”
Cruz’s remarks still fell short of what New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Trump ally, said earlier Wednesday he had wanted to see from Cruz.
“I hope Ted Cruz gets up there tonight to speak at the convention and keeps his word and endorses Donald Trump,” he said during a CNN national security forum. “He should. Especially given the way he was kissing Donald’s rear end for the first six months of the campaign.”
At an event earlier today, Cruz sounded very much like a man who hasn’t given up his dream of eventually reaching the Oval Office — and his supporters certainly aren’t all sold on the Trump train.
“Our party now has a nominee,” he told a group of supporters at an outdoor rally as Trump’s jet simultaneously flew by overhead, prompting extended boos from the crowd.
Cruz acknowledged the plane and laughed, but quickly got serious again.
“You know, there’s a lot of talk about unity. I want to see unity and the way for us to see unity is for us to unite behind shared principles, for us to unite in defense of liberty and for us to empower the grassroots.”
He didn’t actually say the words “Donald Trump,” but he alluded to the infamous nickname Trump gave him, describing the moment his campaign was coming into an end.
“I wasn’t gonna let those SOBs turn Lyin’ Ted into Cryin’ Ted,” the Texas Republican said.
Cruz focused mostly on attacking the establishment in both parties and repeating other themes of his campaign, sounding very much like a man ready for another fight.
“We’ll look to see him come back in either 2020 or 2024 depending on what Trump does,” Dale Attebery, 73, a delegate from Texas and a retired electronics manufacturing employee, said, referring to the possibility that the businessman either loses in November or doesn’t seek a second term. “If he doesn’t win, it does appear Ted Cruz will come back.”
Rubio, meanwhile, once the party establishment’s great hope before Trump clobbered him in his home state of Florida, has had a balancing act of his own in backing the man he ridiculed as a “con artist.”
Rubio recently flip-flopped on his early plan not to run for Senate reelection, giving him an excuse to stay in his home state rather than fly to Cleveland to take the stage. But he will be speaking via remote video feed, ticking a box that could show him as a loyal party foot-soldier should he decide to reprise a run of his own.
Rubio has stood by his criticism of Trump during the campaign, but has repeatedly insisted he’s preferable to Hillary Clinton.
He also has to appeal to Florida voters to retain a seat targeted by Senate Democrats looking to win back the chamber’s majority this fall, while Cruz can simply double down on his appeal to the party faithful, with a ready-made anti- establishment message ready to go should Trump falter.
Another former Trump primary foe, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, backed Trump more explicitly tonight.
“Let me be clear: A vote for anyone other than Donald Trump in November is a vote for Hillary Clinton,” Walker said. “Make no mistake: We can’t wait four years to get ’em next time.”
Walker on Tuesday helped cast some of his state’s delegates’ votes for him and maybe creating a bit of a chance to turn the page on his stillborn presidential run.
The Wisconsin governor, notably, had urged other candidates to drop out and coalesce around a challenger who could beat Trump last year, only to be ignored.
The missing man remains John Kasich, the Ohio governor who has been visible at the periphery of the convention but has refused to participate in it or endorse the party’s nominee.