CLEVELAND, OH – Ted Cruz opened his much anticipated speech tonight by “congratulating” Donald Trump on his victory in the primary. He then said that he hoped “the principles this party was founded upon” would win in November. He carefully avoided saying that Trump was the man to carry those principles, or that he represented them.
He proceeded to a moving eulogy for the fallen officers in Dallas, and declared that our law enforcement in America “deserves better.” He then offered a passioned indictment of the policies of both Obama and Clinton that was both more nuanced, exhaustive, and persuasive than what he offered on the campaign trail.
He abandoned his revival preacher schtick that so hampered him on the campaign trail, and spoke much more from the heart. If Cruz as a speaker had been more like this during the course of the campaign, maybe things would have turned out differently, but who knows.
Cruz was probably aiming for Reagan’s 1976 convention speech during his address tonight, and he may have fallen short of that, because he is not the orator that Ronald Reagan was. But then, few if any are. But he did make a positive impression on many people who he had rubbed the wrong way, and avoided angering either people who believe that Republicans should fall in line behind Trump, or people who believe that no one should fall in line behind Trump.
I know there are people who see ambition and self-interest in everything that Cruz does, and there is nothing I can do to persuade those folks. But it is important to understand the tremendous pressure that was brought to bear on Cruz to deliver a rousing endorsement of Trump tonight. It’s pressure that has successfully brought every one of Trump’s rivals to heartily endorse Trump. But instead of saying “vote for Trump,” Cruz was the only one who instead said, “vote your conscience, and vote candidates who love freedom up and down the ticket.”
Conservatives who oppose Trump have exactly two candidates who haven’t yet bowed the knee to Trump. Only one had the balls to come to the convention and do it. After that point of the speech, the tension in the arena was palpable. The chanting from the New York delegation was very audible. Cruz faced both boos and applause. And he still did not waiver. And that has to count for something.