CLEVELAND — Ted Cruz sensationally withheld an endorsement of Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday, earning a chorus of boos from the floor before he was upstaged by a power play by the GOP nominee himself.
In a dramatic development, as Cruz wrapped up his speech, Trump suddenly appeared in the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, walking to join his family in a VIP area, in a gesture that transmitted clear anger at the Texas senator’s behavior.
Cruz, his party’s runner-up, uttered Trump’s name just once — to congratulate him — and instead pitched the ideological brand of conservatism that endears him to the GOP’s base.
“I congratulate Donald Trump on winning the nomination last night,” Cruz said. “And like each of you, I want to see the principles that our party believes prevail in November.”
But as it was clear Cruz was wrapping up his speech without endorsing Trump, delegates began to boo and some chanted “We want Trump!”
“Don’t stay in home in November,” Cruz said towards the end of his otherwise very well-received speech. “Stand and speak and vote your conscience.”
As delegates began to protest, Sen. Cruz’s wife, Heidi Cruz, was heckled by Trump supporters shouting “Goldman Sachs!” and escorted out by security. Heidi Cruz, who is an employee of Goldman Sachs, declined to answer questions from reporters, saying “I don’t talk to the media, thanks.”
The stunning political theater between the top two contenders in the Republican primary race blew open divisions in the party that the convention is designed to heal, and suggested Cruz believes Trump will lose in November.
Cruz’s appearance at the Cleveland convention had been the subject of intense anticipation over his attitude towards Trump, after their intensely personal exchanges in the late stages of the primary race.
He got a prolonged standing ovation as he walked on stage for a speech that appeared to be an attempt to establish himself as the guardian of conservative values in the Republican Party that some activists doubt Trump shares.
The reaction after the speech from Republicans was swift and harsh.
Jonathan Barnett, a Republican national committeeman from Arkansas, walked off the floor after Cruz’s speech.
“He’s self-centered. It’s all about Ted Cruz. All he did is ruin his political career,” Barnett said. “I think he’s finished.”
Barnett said this is not the kind of grace one shows their party’s nominee: “Reagan wouldn’t have done that. He endorsed Ford.”
A similar sentiment from Arizona delegate Bruce Ash:
“Cruz missed his moment. All he had to do was say ‘Trump’ and he used the dog whistle for ‘conscience.’ A very disappointing message,” Ash texted.
Newt Gingrich, appearing two speakers after Cruz, argued that Cruz’s advocacy for constitutionalism meant that he, implicitly, endorsed Trump — words he himself did not say.
CNN’s Manu Raju contributed to this report.