CLEVELAND — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz faced a livid — and yet admiring — Texas delegation on the final day of the Republican National Convention, only 12 hours after Donald Trump loyalists in the convention booed the junior senator off the stage.
In a standing room-only Texas GOP delegation breakfast Thursday morning, Cruz defended his refusal to endorse the GOP nominee Wednesday evening.
“I am not in the habit of supporting people who have attacked my wife and attacked my father,” said Cruz, who was greeted at the breakfast by both raucous cheers and visceral questions.
Cruz told Texas Republicans he would not vote for Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, and he discouraged Texans from writing in his name in November.
But many in the crowd were unsatisfied with his explanations for not endorsing Trump. Cruz mentioned Trump’s name just once in his remarks Wednesday — toward the beginning of his speech, when he congratulated the billionaire on winning the party’s nomination. When it became apparent that Cruz wasn’t going to endorse Trump — instead imploring the audience to “vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust” — the crowd became angry.
On Thursday morning, one woman emotionally asked Cruz why he would not honor a pledge he made early in the primary campaign, promising to support the eventual GOP nominee.
Cruz told her that he fully intended to follow through on that promise.
“The day that was abrogated was the day this became personal,” he said. “I’m not going to get into criticizing or attacking Donald Trump.”
“And that pledge was not a blanket commitment that if you go slander and attack Heidi, then I’m not going nonetheless come like a servile puppy dog and say thank you very much for maligning my wife and maligning my father. ”
Cruz then signaled to a man in the back of the room.
“I will note, sir, you’re making crying signs in the back,” he said. “I will note, sir, that you might have a similar view if someone were attacking your wife. I hope you would.”
Cruz was alluding to the bitter final weeks of the primary fight, when Trump essentially declared Heidi Cruz unattractive on Twitter and floated a conspiracy theory that Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, was complicit in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Rafael Cruz was in the crowd Thursday morning.
“This is not a game. This is not politics,” Cruz added. “Right and wrong matters. We have not abandoned who we are in this country.”
Afterwards, some Texas Republican delegates could be seen crying as they processed the emotional morning. Some weren’t sure if they would be able to vote for Cruz when he is up for re-election in 2018.
Maria Farias, vice chairwoman of the Bexar County GOP, said she did not buy Cruz’s reluctance to back Trump because he attacked the Cruz family.
“You have to be grown up about it,” said Farias, who supported Cruz in the 2012 Senate race and Marco Rubio in the 2016 presidential primary. “You can’t cry in baseball because you couldn’t hit a grand slam. It’s over.”
Alana Rocha contributed to this report.
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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2016/07/21/admired-ted-cruz-faces-fire-and-ire-texans-after-r/.