No Cruz Endorsement as RNC Speech Nears

(CN) – The Republican National Convention in Cleveland resumes Wednesday night with some potentially awkward moments on the schedule involving two of Donald Trump’s former rivals for the GOP presidential nomination.
     Both Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who Trump repeatedly dismissed as “Lyin’ Ted” and “Little Marco,” respectively, on the campaign trail, are slated to deliver remarks.
     But in a sign that all is far from forgiven, Rubio declined to travel to Cleveland and will instead deliver his remarks via video.
     Cruz will appear in person, but the even before his remarks, the top echelon of the Trump campaign appeared on Wednesday to be parsing his pending presentation.
     Appearing on CNN’s “New Day” program, Trump’s top advisor, Paul Manafort, said Cruz will offer a message “consistent with what Mr. Trump is talking about.”
     Asked whether Cruz will put their past rivalry aside and formally endorse Trump, Manafort assured the program’s hosts that the Texas senator “will be part of the campaign going forward,” although he did admit, “in what capacity, I’m not sure.”
     Later Manafort said Cruz’s words will at minimum “suggest” that he is backing the billionaire real estate developer’s candidacy for president.
     The Trump/Cruz primary battle was bitter throughout the spring, and perhaps reached its lowest point when Trump disparaged the appearance of his Cruz’ wife, Heidi.
     Cruz, in turn and among other things called Trump a “pathological liar.”
     Cruz has not endorsed Trump despite pleas for party unity from the campaign and senior GOP officials, and there was no sign he would change his position.
          Texas fundraiser Mica Mosbacher said Wednesday that Cruz has taken a “quantum leap” with his convention speech after a rough primary, but based on conversations with his advisers the senator and his team are not ready to fully back Trump.
     “I think they’re about 80 percent there,” said Mosbacher, who expects Cruz to make overtures toward unity in his remarks.
     Paul Manafort, Trump’s top campaign adviser, said Wednesday that it will be clear from Cruz’s 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.
     The dynamic is sure to overshadow the night’s other main event, the prime-time address of vice presidential nominee Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
     The campaign hopes Pence’s address will serve as a reintroduction to the American people after an awkward launch of the ticket in New York on Saturday.
     Critics said Trump made the announcement of Pence as his running mate more about himself than about the governor or of he and Pence as a team.
     Trump called Pence his “partner,” but several reputable pundits said the presidential nominee overshadowed his hand-selected running mate, relegating him almost immediately to second-banana status.
     Pence’s selection has helped reassure Republicans who are skeptical that Trump will govern as a true conservative. But Hillary Clinton’s campaign has already declared Pence the “most extreme” vice presidential candidate “in a generation.”
     In effect Wednesday, even more than the previous two nights of the convention is something of a reset moment for the campaign.
     Manafort, who made the rounds of morning talk shows Wednesday, acknowledged as much when he told ABC that the campaign feels “the American people don’t know all of Donald Trump.”
          Tonight, Eric Trump, executive vice president of his father’s Trump Organization, will follow his brother and sister to the GOP podium to make the case for his dad.
     According to the Associated Press, many once-reluctant Trump supporters have said that getting to know his kids has reassured them about his character.
     Eric Trump has said he will “speak from the heart” and in perhaps a “more personal” way than siblings did on Tuesday night.
     Also scheduled to speak are former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker another former Trump rival Florida Gov. Rick Scott, radio host Laura Ingraham, and oil executive Harold Hamm.
     Wednesday’s theme is “Make America First Again.”
     In line with that, many of the speakers are expected to charge that President Barack Obama’s eight years in office have weakened the nation abroad and limited opportunities at home.
     In contrast, they’ll argue, a Trump administration will enable the United States to reclaim its historic role in the world.
     For her part, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has called the Republican gathering “surreal,” comparing its opening night on Monday to the Hollywood classic, “The Wizard of Oz.”
     “When you pull back the curtain, it was just Donald Trump with nothing to offer to the American people,” Clinton said during a speech in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
     After the roll call, Clinton tweeted a fundraising appeal: “Donald Trump just became the Republican nominee. Chip in now to make sure he never steps foot in the Oval Office.”
     Trump will close the four-day convention with a speech Thursday night accepting the nomination.
     The Associated Press contributed to this report.
     Photo caption 1:
     The large television monitor announces that after the New York delegation casts their votes that Donald Trump has enough votes to become the nominee of the Republican Party for President of the United States during the second day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Tuesday, July 19, 2016. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
     Photo caption 2:
     FILE – In this June 28, 2016, file photo, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, leaves the Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington. Cruz is schedule to speak at the Republican National Convention on July 20. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
     Photo caption 3:
     Republican vice presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind., speaks during a luncheon sponsored by the American Conservative Union Foundation, Tuesday, July 19, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

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