A day before the Republican National Convention convenes with a theme of Make America One Again, the party showed, on national television, that it is not one. Former presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz refused to endorse Republican nominee Donald Trump on Wednesday night during his primetime speech.
Cruz in his speech told the delegates and Americans watching to “vote your conscience.”
“If you love our country, and love our children as much as you do, 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.”
While this may seem like simple appeal to ethos, the particular words chosen are a reference to the Never Trump movement. Activists in that movement have longed called for a conscience vote, so delegates with a major objection to Trump could voice their concerns.
The crowd responded with chants of “We Want Trump” as Cruz said, “I appreciate the enthusiasm of the New York delegation.”
When Cruz’s speech finished with no endorsement, the crowd responded with boos.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich then came out and attempted to spin Cruz’s speech as a positive for Trump. “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.”
Cruz’s speech also worked to overshadow vice presidential nominee Governor Mike Pence’s speech, along with a speech from Eric Trump, Trump’s son.
Presumptive Democratic nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her team also used Cruz’s speech to their advantage. They tweeted the “Vote your conscience” line and linked to her website.
Many analysts said that Cruz’s line was an attempt at setting himself up for a 2020 presidential run. Cruz is trying to set himself up as a person who stood up to Trump and then utilize that should Trump lose in November.