Ted Cruz stole the show on the third night of the convention here. The Texan, whose primary contest against Donald Trump turned intensely personal before it ended — with, among other things, Trump criticizing the looks of Cruz’s wife and suggesting his father was involved in the JFK assassination — congratulated Trump for winning the nomination early in his speech. But toward the end, he uttered these words:
“And to those listening, please, don’t stay home in November. If you love your country, 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.”
Now, all of those words except “if you love your country” were in the prepared remarks distributed by the party earlier Wednesday night. That suggests party officials didn’t consider those words too controversial — or were deeply negligent for the second time in three days. But the crowd at Quicken Loans Arena felt differently. As Cruz spoke, boos began to rain down on him the upper level, which was more full than on the first two nights of this convention. By the time Cruz wound up, the boos had grown louder — and they became deafening when he ad-libbed the words, “We will unite the party, we will unite the country …”
The crowd in Cleveland did not buy it. At all.
Almost immediately, two lines of thought began to dominate on social media:
1. Ted Cruz is a principled hero who didn’t bow down to Trump. Never Trump!
2. Ted Cruz is a slimy opportunist trying to begin his candidacy in 2020. Never Cruz!
It’s hard to know which one will win out in the end. Up until the end, Cruz’s speech was well-received and even seemed borderline magnanimous. But it seems very clear that the thin veneer of unity the GOP had tried to brush onto these proceedings won’t fool anyone.