Texas Senator Ted Cruz made the biggest mark of all the speakers on the third night of the Republican National Convention Wednesday when he declined to offer Donald Trump his official endorsement for president. Steve Lonegan, New Jersey State Chairman for Cruz’s unsuccessful presidential bid, told PolitickerNJ he believes Cruz did the right thing.
Saying that he left the convention Monday night “discouraged” by the convention’s “low energy,” Lonegan said that Trump’s personal attacks against Cruz’s family during the primary made it impossible for the senator to offer the full-throated endorsement many were hoping for.
“Number one, Ted Cruz had to stand up for the honor of his wife,” Lonegan said. “The Trump campaign knew darn well that Ted Cruz would not be endorsing him last night. They knew it. And I don’t think that whole demonstration was a mistake.”
Trump made vague and unfulfilled threats to “spill the beans” about Cruz’s wife on Twitter, and insinuated that Cruz’s father had been involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Cruz reportedly provided the Trump campaign with hard copies of his remarks before he spoke last night. Longegan said that Cruz’s speech, which called for Republicans to honor the constitution by voting for the unnamed nominee, should not have come as a surprise.
“It didn’t seem any less enthusiastic than Paul Ryan’s or any other’s. Or the fact that so many people aren’t even there,” he said.
Cruz said after the speech that he was simply doing his part for the party at Trump’s request. Characteristically for a man who has built his reputation on bucking Republican colleagues in the Senate, he said that he was within his rights to telegraph his doubts about his party’s presumptive nominee.
“I addressed the convention because Donald Trump asked me to,” Cruz said. “And when Donald Trump asked me to, he didn’t ask me to endorse.
“The way to win, as I tried with all my might to lay out, is not to just scream and yell and attack as a traitor anyone who would dare question our candidate.”
Trump’s camp was quick to criticize Cruz for his non-endorsement, with campaign chairman Paul Manafort pointing to Cruz’s pledge to support the eventual nominee. Cruz’s campaign manager Jeff Roe fired back by reminding reporters that Trump rescinded his own pledge to do the same.
Lonegan believes Cruz’s decision not to endorse will eventually be looked on favorably despite the uproar on the convention floor, where some turned their backs on Cruz and hollered at him from the crowd to make the endorsement.
“While Ted Cruz is getting a lot of people criticizing him, he’s also getting an awful lot of people that are proud of him,” Lonegan said. “And I’m one of them.
“In my opinion he was endorsing without using the guy’s name. And yet they turned against him,” he continued. “How bizarre.
“I believe that in hindsight, years from now, delegates who were at that convention are going to say ‘I was cheering for Ted Cruz.’”