Stubbornly undercutting calls for Republican unity, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz refused to endorse Donald Trump Wednesday night as he addressed the GOP convention, ignoring thunderous boos from furious delegates as he encouraged Americans to simply “vote your conscience” in November.
In a surreal moment, Trump unexpectedly walked into the arena just as Cruz was wrapping up his remarks. Delegates chanted Trump’s name and implored Cruz to voice his support for the businessman, to no avail.
“Vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution,” Cruz said. While he backed some of Trump’s policy proposals, including building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, he mentioned the GOP nominee by name only once.
Cruz’s defiance ripped open party divisions anew, on the summer’s biggest political stage. Trump allies were infuriated, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who said Cruz’s decision was “totally selfish.”
The stunning moment upended what was shaping up to be the convention’s most successful night, and overshadowed Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s national convention debut as Trump’s running mate.
“You have nominated a man for president who never quits,” Pence said. “Until now, he’s had to do it all by himself against all odds but this week, with this united party, he’s got backup.”
Trump’s campaign had hoped Pence’s address would quiet Republican doubts about Trump. Unlike Trump, Pence is an experienced politician, favorite of conservatives and ally of party leaders.
Taking the stage shortly after Cruz, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tried to explain away the senator’s lack of support for the nominee.
“Ted Cruz said you can vote your conscience for anyone who will uphold the Constitution,” he said. “In this election there is only one candidate who will uphold the Constitution.”