Ted Cruz is set to give a major speech at the RNC, but no Trump endorsement is on the agenda. Check out what’s going on.
Sen. Ted Cruz’s Texas-size political ambitions will be on full display Wednesday as the primary runner-up delivers a prime-time convention speech, but holds off on a full-throated endorsement of Republican nominee Donald Trump.
The conservative senator repeatedly clashed with Trump during a bitter primary fight, with the New York businessman mocking the lawmaker as “Lyin’ Ted.” With an eye toward 2020, Cruz’s team drafted a convention speech focusing on adherence to the Constitution, a calling card for conservatives and a perceived contrast with Trump.
Cruz has not endorsed Trump despite pleas for party unity from the campaign and senior GOP officials. Nor is he expected to in his speech, which was carefully screened by Trump campaign officials, the senator’s aides said.
Paul Manafort, Trump’s top campaign adviser, said Wednesday that it will be clear from Cruz’ speech that he’s supporting Trump, though “how he says it, I don’t know.”
In a brief interview with The Associated Press, Manafort dismissed the importance of Cruz using the word endorse.
“No, it doesn’t at all. The point is the same… If he’s voting that’s the signal,” he said.
Before Trump even accepts the nomination, Cruz’s supporters as well as critics say undercurrents in Cleveland are emboldening the senator’s band of believers and stoking his 2020 prospects, should Trump lose in November.
Cruz is eager to be seen as the face of the modern conservative movement should Trump lose in November and create an open GOP field in four years.
So what Cruz says Wednesday during his prime-time convention speech will be closely watched for clues about his presidential aspirations.
“I’m hopeful it’s a speech that rings so true and so motivating that we think of 1976 and Ronald Reagan,” said Iowa Rep. Steve King, a Cruz supporter. King was referring to Reagan’s words after losing the nomination to Gerald Ford only to win the presidency four years later.
Should Trump lose, King said of Cruz, the speech will be “the marker for him as front-runner” for 2020.