CLEVELAND (CN) — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz attempted a coup tonight at the Republican National Convention, refusing to endorse his rival and Republican nominee Donald Trump and instead telling voters to “vote their conscience,” stealing the thunder of Trump’s pick for vice president and headliner for the night Mike Pence.
While the big screens and digital tickers flickered and malfunctioned in the Quicken Loans Arena, Donald Trump’s son Eric Trump tried to move the evening back on track, but the fracture left by Cruz’s speech reminded the world that the Republican Party is anything but unified in its quest to win the presidency.
Cruz’s speech was uncharacteristically moderate, mentioning the need for rights for all, including the LGBTQ community.
Another former rival, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, appeared on the big screens before they failed and right before Cruz’s night-stealing speech.
“It’s time to stop fighting,” Rubio said before endorsing Trump.
Cruz congratulated Trump’s victory, but stopped there. He tugged on the heartstrings of the crowd by telling a story from the perspective of the young daughter of a police officer killed last month in the Dallas shooting. He also took his obligatory shots at the Obama administration, stating that the president considers ISIS as “a JV team.”
But toward the end of his speech, Cruz went off script when he told the crowd amid chants of “Trump! Trump!” that they should vote their conscience and uphold the Constitution.
The crowd shot to their feet, booed and gestured until Cruz thanked them and walked off stage.
Former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich addressed the Cruz speech, stating that the crowd had misjudged him, concluding that by his logic, “the only logical candidate to uphold the Constitution is Donald Trump,” but the damage had been done.
By the time Pence took the stage, the tension had eased.
“I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order,” Pence said, introducing himself to the world as the potential number two Republican.
He quipped with the crowd, joking about his humbled background and discreet personality compared to that of Trump’s flare.
He also said he expected to hear Trump speak honestly in rebuttal to Cruz during his acceptance speech tomorrow evening.
Throughout the night, anger and vitriol toward Hillary Clinton from speakers was palpable, painting the Democratic nominee more like a villain in a James Bond movie than a candidate for President of the United States.
“If she were anymore on the inside, she’d be in prison,” said Walker. “I wouldn’t give Hillary Clinton the password to my iPhone, let alone give her access to national security information.”
Syndicated talk radio host Laura Ingraham also affixed the big government name tag on Clinton, stating, “[Hillary Clinton] believes there’s a government solution to every problem. No, Hillary, you’re the problem.”
The theme of the evening was “Make America First Again,” and included speeches from Kentucky State Sen. Ralph Alvarado, the first Hispanic man to hold his office, the first female commander in space astronaut Eileen Collins and small female small business owner Michelle Van Etten, who called Clinton a “Hillary-crat” that’s bad for American business.
Alvarado sent a message to Clinton in his speech: “You have failed to the Latin community and don’t deserve our vote.”
Every mention of Clinton’s name drew boos at best, and chants of “Lock her up!” at worst.
“The American people should be terrified of a Hillary Clinton presidency,” Gingrich said.
Outside of the arena, police stopped a woman from burning the American flag in the streets, while sign-waving demonstrators huddled behind make-shift television news studios, hoping to make their way into the frame behind recognizable pundits.
Alternate Rhode Island delegate Stacia Huyler told CNS earlier at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that, “Highway to Hell should Hillary’s theme song when she comes out [at next week’s Democratic National Convention].”
Hundreds of Trump supporters walked the concourses of the Quicken Loans Arena wearing “Hillary for Prison” t-shirts, while outside the barricades vendors sold shirts with slogans far more lewd.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi told the crowd that, “Hillary believes our enemy deserve our respect and empathy. Donald Trump believes our enemies must die.”
Photo caption 1:
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., addresses the delegates during the third day session of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Wednesday, July 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Photo caption 2:
Delegates hold signs as Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin speaks during the third day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Wednesday, July 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Photo caption 3:
Republican Vice Presidential Nominee Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana waves as he takes the stage during the third day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Wednesday, July 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
- Anthem Won’t Cover Name Brands, Suit Says
- Trump Says US May Not Defend NATO Allies