As the electrified crowd awaited Ted Cruz’s speech on Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena, a question hung over the room: Would Ted Cruz endorse Donald Trump? Leading into the convention, Cruz had refused to offer his endorsement, citing the fact that Trump insulted his wife and his father. Yet, it felt like that night would be different. He was speaking at Trump’s convention, and he began his speech by congratulating Trump for winning the Republican nomination.
It quickly became apparent, however, that Cruz would not be offering his endorsement. As soon as the words, “Vote your conscience,” echoed in the arena, a chorus of boos and chants of “Endorse Trump” began that would not end until Cruz left the stage.
The next day, the media played this clip over and over again, casting the GOP as a divided party who still cannot come together behind their nominee. In a way that was true, as a small amount of Republicans in attendance cheered Cruz while the majority booed him. The amount of Republican elected officials and operatives who refused to attend also showed a clear division in the party. However, it seemed like the within the GOP rank and file, the party was firmly behind Trump.
After speaking with delegates from several different states, I got the impression that the majority of those in the arena saw Cruz as disrespectful and selfish. They said that he should not have spoken at the convention and was damaging the party. Many of his former supporters I spoke with disavowed him after the convention night debacle. Now, it appears that the average Republican is starting to see why Cruz’s senate colleagues dislike him so much.
Cruz knows no boundaries in his quest to become President of the United States. Despite having lackluster charisma and an often mocked demeanor, his intelligence has carried him to this point in his career. Yet, the intelligence that Cruz seems to lack is when to strategically lose a battle so he can live to fight again. In this election, the RNC and Republican activists are working hard to bring the party together. In general, they have been incredibly successful in doing so. In many polls, Trump is losing fewer Republicans to Clinton than Clinton is losing Democrats to Trump. At this delicate time, the RNC is calling in all of its favors and trying to force former candidates to stand by their pledge to endorse the nominee. Cruz chose the wrong place and time to stand against Trump. He flew too close to the sun and has fallen in the eyes of many GOP voters.
At the end of the day, the average GOP voter will support Trump as long as he stays on message and avoids unforced errors. While elected officials and operatives may never get on the Trump Train, they better not stand in its way. It is apparent, especially after Cruz’s stunt, that the train is stopping for no one and not afraid to leave blood on the tracks.