CLEVELAND — Ted Cruz vigorously defended his decision not to stand by a pledge to endorse the Republican presidential nominee in a remarkable 25-minute back-and-forth with his own constituents, withstanding an all-out beg from Texas Republicans to put the party above his inhibitions and back Donald Trump.
“That pledge was not a blanket commitment that if you go and slander and attack Heidi, that I’m going to nonetheless come like a servile puppy dog and say thank you very much for maligning my wife and maligning my father,” Cruz told members of the Texas delegation Thursday morning. Heidi is the senator’s wife.
The political firestorm that Cruz ignited on Wednesday evening grew even hotter here in the downtown Marriott, as speaker after speaker pleaded for Cruz to honor his word and back the Republican nominee. Yet Cruz, who veered from defiant to reassuring, repeatedly offered new explanations for why he was not yet prepared to do so, hoping to turn down the temperature on a quarrel that devolved into a shouting match.
“This isn’t a team sport,” Cruz said at one point. “You don’t just put on red jerseys and blue jerseys and say ‘yay!’ This is about principles.”
Cruz reaffirmed that he would not vote for Hillary Clinton, and it was unclear whether the Texans confronted him were more than a vocal minority. About half of the crowd stood up and gave him ovations whenever he defended his decision as principled and not personal to Trump.
Cruz took about a dozen questions here at what was originally scheduled to be a fairly traditional delegation breakfast. And nearly every speaker that yelled at their senator implored him to endorse Trump, with Cruz repeatedly declining to give an inch. Many Republicans brought up the pledge that he and the entire Republican field signed to support the nominee, but Cruz described that agreement as “abrogated’ when Trump attacked his family during the hottest days of the Republican primary.