Texas Sen. Ted Cruz called on Republicans Wednesday night to vote their “consciences” in the general election, but stopped short of endorsing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Cruz congratulated Trump for winning the nomination at the top of his address to the GOP national convention, but did not mention the real estate mogul again in nearly 30 minutes of remarks, prompting boos. Instead Cruz urged the party faithful not to sit out the election and to vote “up and down the ballot” for “candidates you trust.”
“If you love our country and love your children . . . stand and speak and vote your conscience,” Cruz told the crowd.
The New York delegation, upon realizing Cruz would not be issuing an endorsement to his one-time primary rival, started booing and urging him to keep his pledge. Others in the crowd jeered and shouted, “Endorse Trump!”
“I appreciate the enthusiasm of the New York delegation,” Cruz said to the group, which was seated directly in front of the convention’s main stage.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) afterward said he wasn’t surprised by Cruz’s actions. “Tonight, America saw the real Ted Cruz. He’s a liar, he’s a fraud and he should never have even been considered for president by the Republican Party,” King said.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said, “They all pledged to support the winner of the primary, and that was Donald Trump, and I think he missed a good opportunity today to further unify the party.”
Later, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tried to do damage control by saying, “To paraphrase Ted Cruz, if you want to protect the Constitution of the United States the only possible” vote is for the Trump/Pence ticket.
Trump later tweeted, “Wow, Ted Cruz got booed off the stage, didn’t honor the pledge! I saw his speech two hours early but let him speak anyway. No big deal!”
Cruz, setting up a possible presidential run in 2020, used the prime-time speech to extol his vision for the country.
“I am here to tell you there is a better vision for our future, a return to freedom,” Cruz said, before ticking off a list of policies popular with Republicans such as the right to choose between public and charter schools and the right to bear arms.
Cruz’s speech struck an inclusive tone, reminding the crowd that the Republican Party “was founded to defeat slavery,” and said “freedom means religious freedom . . . whether you’re Christian or Jewish or Muslim or atheist.”
“Whether you are gay or straight, the Bill of Rights protects all of us to live according to our conscience,” Cruz said.
Trump and Cruz traded bitter barbs during the final months of the primary season, as Cruz defeated Trump in several states, including Texas.
Trump has insulted Cruz’s wife and suggested Cruz’s father may have been involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Cruz, in recent months, described Donald Trump as a “pathological liar” and a narcissist bully for whom “morality does not exist.”
With Emily Ngo and Michael Gormley