Cleveland — When Ted Cruz doubled down on his non-endorsement of Donald Trump during remarks to the Texas Republican delegation this morning, his broadsides against the nominee were obvious. But he also threw down the gauntlet against several of the politicians he would likely be competing against in a future presidential bid.
Cruz, who spoke for some time before taking questions from an alternately adoring and enraged audience, said he was there to let his constituents in Texas hold him accountable. “Woulda been the easiest thing in the world to turn tail and run,” Cruz said. “But that ain’t gonna happen.”
Later in his speech, he took a direct swipe at opponents who did just that.
“There’s a lot of options that I could’ve taken that politically would’ve been a heck of a lot easier. There’s option number one, which is what a whole lot of people took, which is turn tail and run and don’t come to the convention. There’re a bunch of people that did that. I ain’t one of them,” Cruz said.
The other option, Cruz said, would be to endorse Trump. But Cruz said he was unwilling to endorse until he felt genuinely ready. “Whether you want me to or not, I’m not gonna lie to you,” he said to cheers.
In the first category, there’s Nebraska senator Ben Sasse, who has been one of the loudest anti-Trump voices in the Senate, and who is not attending the convention. Sasse, many believe, has his sights set on a bid for higher office. In the second category, there’s Arkansas senator Tom Cotton, whose political ambitions were clearly on display this week when he spoke to the delegations from Iowa, South Carolina, and New Hampshire. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who was also making the rounds with the early state delegations this week, is also in that second group. Florida senator Marco Rubio finds himself in both categories: He endorsed Trump, but has spent this week campaigning for Senate in his home state of Florida. (He recorded a video message last week that was played at the convention Wednesday evening.)
Cruz’s point was driven home by his former campaign manager, Jeff Roe, who, speaking to reporters after the breakfast, emphasized that his camp sees the senator’s stand as politically courageous, if also politically disadvantageous.
Roe said he met Cruz in his hotel room before his speech to the Texas delegation. “Coming down the elevator with him, I’m telling him, ‘There’s likely to be boos on introduction,’” Roe said.
“Any rational political person here would not go. Right? Like, you got a bad case of the flu last night. That’s the first measurement. The second measurement is, when he goes, don’t take questions. Like, give a speech, juice ’em up, and then get the heck out of the room. And he’s sitting there taking questions . . . a lot of questions,” Roe said.
“People are upset. Like, go talk to them. And he’s gonna continue to do that,” Roe added later. “I mean this isn’t some, you know, drop the grenade and walk out of the room. We want people to exactly know his heart.”
Roe also made the point that an eventual endorsement of Trump was not off the table. “He’s the nominee. . . . Everyone wants to get to a position where we’re all lockstep and going. He’s just not there yet,” he said.
But he waved off questions about Cruz’s future political plans.
“2020?” he said. “Who knows, man? That’s really too long.”