Cruz Roils GOP Convention With Last Stand Against Trump

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at the Republican National Convention. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at the Republican National Convention. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

CLEV­E­LAND—It was sab­ot­age night at the Re­pub­lic­an Na­tion­al Con­ven­tion on Wed­nes­day.

Trump’s rival, Sen. Ted Cruz, used his prime-time speak­ing op­por­tun­ity to de­liv­er a con­ser­vat­ive stem­winder dis­tin­guished by his re­fus­al to en­dorse the GOP pres­id­en­tial nom­in­ee on stage. “Stand, and speak, and vote your con­science, vote for can­did­ates up and down the tick­et who you trust to de­fend our free­dom and to be faith­ful to the Con­sti­tu­tion!” Cruz in­veighed.

The Trump fam­ily, sit­ting in the VIP box, stared stonily at the po­di­um. They’d avoided ap­plaud­ing for Cruz throughout his speech. Boos start­ing cir­cu­lat­ing throughout the arena. One wo­man sit­ting in the club level star­ted scream­ing re­peatedly: “You say it!! You say his name!” at the top of her lungs. Minutes later, she was es­cor­ted out of the arena. Cruz smiled at the pro-Trump New York del­eg­a­tion, stand­ing in front of the po­di­um, ac­know­ledging their an­ger.

“I’ve nev­er seen any­thing like this in my life,” said Rep. Mark San­ford of South Car­o­lina, his mouth agape as he wit­nessed the chaos on the floor. Cruz was mak­ing his pitch for the 2020 Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­a­tion right in front of his hated rival. Un­like Trump’s oth­er 15 pres­id­en­tial op­pon­ents, Cruz (as he has done throughout his ca­reer) re­fused to go along with the flow, put­ting his am­bi­tion ahead of any forced solid­ar­ity with Trump. This time, his ob­stin­acy may be re­membered more vividly than his nu­mer­ous ni­hil­ist­ic clashes with con­gres­sion­al lead­er­ship. Cruz is the last man stand­ing against the Trump jug­ger­naut.

Then, in a scene re­min­is­cent from a World Wide Wrest­ling event, Trump walked in­to the arena as the boos to­wards Cruz cas­caded through the arena. It was a real-life rep­res­ent­a­tion of the two wings of the Re­pub­lic­an Party clash­ing at this con­ven­tion—the Trump wing and the Cruz wing. Cruz left the stage, mak­ing a new series of en­emies, as Don­ald Trump’s son, Eric, pre­pared to make the case for his dad.

As if on cue, the Jum­botron began flick­er­ing. Eric Trump de­livered his speech with the score­board lights flash­ing and dim­ming across the arena. His line about the in­fra­struc­ture at home crum­bling could have been a ref­er­ence to the elec­tri­city at the Quick­en Loans Arena. Don­ald Trump sat in the VIP box without much of an ex­pres­sion. His son-in-law, Jared Kush­ner, stand­ing in the back of the box, slowly paced around as the chaos un­fol­ded in front of him. Eric Trump’s speech, a heart­felt trib­ute to his fath­er, was over­shad­owed by events out of his con­trol. After Eric fin­ished, his fath­er stood up, whispered to Ivanka, “I’m leav­ing,” and ex­ited with min­im­al fan­fare.

Newt Gin­grich, who has taken on the role as Don­ald Trump’s “ex­plain­er,” then tried to calm the roil­ing hall with a deft im­pro­visa­tion. “Ted Cruz said you can vote your con­science for any­one who will up­hold the Con­sti­tu­tion,” he said. “… So, to para­phrase Ted Cruz, if you want to pro­tect the Con­sti­tu­tion of the United States, the only pos­sible can­did­ate this fall is the Trump-Pence Re­pub­lic­an tick­et.”

But this night will not be re­membered for Gin­grich’s plea for party unity, nor for the nom­in­a­tion of Mike Pence as vice pres­id­ent. Pence de­livered a com­pel­ling de­fense of con­ser­vat­ism, lay­ing out the case against lib­er­al­ism in the Obama era with hard-hit­ting one-liners. He de­livered a work­man­like speech, mak­ing the strongest case for Trump of any­one out­side of the nom­in­ee’s own fam­ily.

But Pence was over­shad­owed by Cruz. It was text­book Ted Cruz. Either his­tory will re­ward him as the lone Re­pub­lic­an will­ing to chal­lenge a nom­in­ee tak­ing the Re­pub­lic­an Party in a dis­astrous dir­ec­tion, or it will be the latest epis­ode of a Re­pub­lic­an who is will­ing to put his own am­bi­tions ahead of his party.

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