The divisions of the Republican Party spilled onto the floor of the Republican National Convention again on Wednesday night, when Ted Cruz urged delegates to vote their consciences in November, as the former rival of Donald Trump refused to endorse his party’s nominee for President.
“We deserve leaders who stand for principle, who unite us behind shared values,” Cruz said, as the last five minutes of his speech were peppered with catcalls and boos from the crowd, which literally booed him off the stage.
The extraordinary scene involving Cruz sounded one more discordant note among Republicans over Trump’s victory for the GOP nomination, as critics immediately accused Cruz of looking to 2020 instead of party unity.
Cruz actually began his speech to the Republican delegates by congratulating Trump on winning the GOP nomination – but it never took the next step to a public endorsement.
Earlier in the day, Cruz had signaled that he would not unify behind Trump just for the sake of Republican Party unity.
“You know, there is a lot of talk about unity, I want to see unity – and the way to see unity is for us unite behind shared principles, us to unite in defense of liberty,” Cruz told supporters.
The Cruz speech wasn’t exactly the 2016 version of Ted Kennedy’s “The Dream Shall Never Die” speech at the 1980 Democratic convention, which helped undermine Jimmy Carter, but it certainly has felt like some of his backers are already looking to the next election.
“2020! 2020!” they chanted at a campaign-like event on Wednesday afternoon at an outdoor bar not far from the convention site.
But there was plenty of evidence inside the arena last night that Trump supporters are not pleased that Cruz has refused to endorse Trump, as conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham belittled those who weren’t on board as yet.
“I want to say this very plainly, we should all – even all you boys with wounded feelings and bruised egos – we love you, but you must honor your pledge to support Donald Trump now, tonight!” Ingraham exclaimed, as the crowd roared.
But for many Cruz supporters, voting for Trump is simply a bridge too far, a move away from conservative values, as they worry Trump is not a real conservative.
“Personally, I will not” vote for Trump, said Regina Thomson, who ran the Cruz campaign in Colorado. “I just can’t.”
“At this point, I would write in Ted Cruz, that would be my choice,” added Thomson, who led the group Free the Delegates, which tried to find a way to block Trump’s nomination.
Others though were not on the sidelines with Cruz – like Scott Walker, the Wisconsin Governor who had once been urging Republicans to do all they could to stop Trump.
“Donald Trump is standing with the American people,” Walker said to cheers.
“America deserves better that Hillary Clinton,” Walker led the crowd in saying repeatedly, as he told delegates he had been on the phone with Trump an hour earlier.
“After a long and spirited primary, the time for fighting each other is over,” Marco Rubio said by video to the delegates, as he gave Trump his support.
The next speaker was Cruz.
He would not follow Rubio or Walker.
And the rousing cheers that welcomed Cruz soon turned to an avalanche of boos and jeers.