Ted Cruz was back in campaign mode on Thursday, crowing to the press about the middle finger he’d presented to Donald Trump the night before at the Republican National Convention. “I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father,” Cruz told Texas delegates, many of whom were unhappy he’d chosen not to endorse the nominee.
At the convention, Cruz congratulated Trump on his victory before delivering a speech that included support for many of Trump’s favored proposals. But it was what he didn’t say that turned the Quicken Loans against him.
“Don’t stay home in November,” he urged conservatives. “Stand and speak and vote your conscience.”
When the delegates realized that Cruz was not going to endorse, they erupted in a chorus of boos, drowning out the conclusion of his speech.
If Cruz had hoped for a different reaction, he went away disappointed. Even some conservatives of like mind – Republicans who supported Cruz in the primaries, even – thought the senator should have taken a different path on Wednesday night.
“In the end, each individual has a duty to the nation that transcends the duty to themselves,” said Virginia delegate Richard Black, a former Cruz campaign chair. “That’s where he failed. He failed the nation.”
Clearly, though, Cruz thinks the Trump ship is a sinking one. He’s already looking forward to a run in 2020, and he believes that voters will be looking for a Republican who wasn’t taken in by the “con man.” It’s a gamble, but you can see what he’s thinking.
The problem is, that’s the very essence of putting yourself before the nation. No one’s suggesting that Ted Cruz has to forgive and forget. No one’s saying he has to endorse. But if you can’t bring yourself to get on board, at least have the decency to stay home. Cruz’s little rebellion gave Hillary Clinton a one-liner on Twitter, where she simply echoed Cruz’s advice: “Vote your conscience.” By using the Republican National Convention to launch his next campaign, Cruz turned himself into an agent of the Democratic Party.