Ted Cruz couldn’t even make it through thanking his own supporters without being overshadowed by Donald Trump.
Before speaking at the Republican National Convention Wednesday night, the Texas senator and 2016 GOP primary runner-up had gathered over 1,200 of his volunteers and backers at a restaurant on a dock along the Cleveland waterfront, firing them up as though he was back at a campaign rally.
He hadn’t mentioned Trump at all, instead boasting of the victories they amassed in the primary and just how close they came.
“In an amazing campaign field of 17 talented, dynamic candidates, we beat 15 of those candidates,” Cruz said. We just didn’t beat 16.”
“Our party now has a nominee,” he started. And as if on cue, the billionaire businessman’s plane emblazoned with “TRUMP” across the side flew overhead to land nearby.
“That was pretty well orchestrated,” Cruz said, laughing, taking it in stride as many supporters began booing loudly.
“Jeff, did you email them to fly the plane right when I said that?” he asked his former campaign manager, Jeff Roe.
Cruz still hasn’t endorsed Trump after their bitter primary battle that saw the eventual GOP nominee retweet a supporter’s unflattering photo of Cruz’s wife, Heidi, and suggest that Cruz’s father, Rafael, was somehow involved in President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
Speaking to reporters before Cruz took the stage, Roe wouldn’t say whether the Texas senator would endorse Trump tonight in his speech, saying people would have to tune in. After Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort told reporters Wednesday morning he would be looking over Cruz’s speech for tonight, Roe wouldn’t talk about the process. But again, as if on cue, Roe then got a phone call from Manafort, turned it around to reporters to show the caller ID, and stepped away to talk to the Trump top aide. Roe did say that Trump and Cruz had spoken on Tuesday.
Cruz did tell his supporters he wanted to see unity in the Republican Party and that the way to do that was “unite behind shared principles, us to unite in defense of liberty and for us to empower the grass roots.”
But he also seemed to give his own supporters a pass if they didn’t fully feel comfortable voting for Trump.
“What I do know is that everyone of us has an obligation to follow our conscience, to speak the truth, and truth is unchanging,” he said.
He also alluded to his own future national prospects — something the crowd egged on as they chanted “2020! 2020!” at various points.
“I don’t know what the future’s going to hold; I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Cruz said. “But what I do know, what remains unshaken is my faith in the men and women here.”
Cruz has already announced he will run for re-election to the Senate in 2018, but his advisers haven’t been coy either about another presidential run.
“He’s 45 years old, and he got second in the presidential race,” Roe told reporters. He estimated that about a third of their supporters are now “all-in for Trump, a third are like, ‘Gosh, I wish I didn’t have to, but I can’t stand Hillary,’ and a third are probably like, ‘I’m just going to wait and see how the campaign goes.’ ”