“After many months of careful consideration, of prayer and searching my own conscience, I have decided that on Election Day, I will vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump,” Ted Cruz wrote on Facebook yesterday.
It was a stunning change of heart and soul for the Texas senator, who traded vicious schoolyard barbs and accusations with the GOP nominee during the presidential primary race. The New York billionaire nicknamed Cruz “Lyin’ Ted,” made disparaging remarks about the physical appearance of Cruz’s wife, and linked his father to the John F. Kennedy assassination.
In return, Cruz, called Trump a “pathological liar” and “utterly amoral.”
Nonetheless, political observers were stunned at the Republican National Convention when Cruz encouraged Republicans to “vote your conscience” rather than for Trump. The comment prompted a chorus of boos from the floor.
Even more perplexing was Cruz’s dramatic about-face yesterday. Cruz said he was following through on a promise to support his party’s presidential nominee, but it’s more likely that he caved into political pressure — along with God’s direction — to back Trump .
Since the convention speech, polls have suggested that Cruz’s popularity was slipping nationally and in Texas — where he could face a primary challenger for re-election in 2018, The Associated Press reported.
His base supported his refusal to back Trump at first, but the mood shifted recently. The vast majority of calls coming into Cruz’s office had turned increasingly negative in recent weeks with many voters urging him to support Trump to prevent a Clinton victory, according to Republicans familiar with the situation. The Republicans spoke on the condition of anonymity because these were internal discussions.
But at the same time, the large staff that worked on Cruz’s presidential bid pushed him not to endorse. Most refused to accept jobs with the Trump campaign when offered following Cruz’s departure from the primary campaign this spring. And as recently as this week, some warned they would not work for Cruz again if he officially endorsed Trump.
Cruz’s decision also comes as he weighs the prospect of a 2020 presidential bid, where Trump’s donors could play an important role.
‘Lucifer in the flesh’
Within the Republican Party, Cruz is probably the only leader who’s despised as deeply as the nominee. His outrageous antics included a 21-hour filibuster on the Senate floor in 2013 during which he recited Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham to protest the funding of the Affordable Care Act. Days later, he shut down the entire federal government.
Insiders said the incident demonstrated Cruz’s shameless penchant for self-promotion rather than his strict adherence to far-right ideology. Among GOP colleagues, he’s known as a man who’d “stab” his best friend in the back to gain even the tiniest political advantage.
When fellow GOP hopeful Mike Huckabee staged a press conference last year to lead Kentucky clerk Kim Davis out of jail, Cruz showed up and tried to elbow his way in front of the cameras, only to be pushed away by Huckabee’s bodyguards. Davis, a three-time divorcee and self-acknowledged adulterer, became a religious cause celebre for going to jail rather than sign same-sex marriage licenses.
In a post-retirement interview, former House Speaker John Boehner called Cruz “Lucifer in the flesh.”
“I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life,” Boehner told an audience at Stanford University a few months after he stepped down as the GOP Congressional leader.
Like Cruz, Trump had to eat a lot of crow over the endorsement.
“I am greatly honored by the endorsement of Sen. Cruz,” Trump said Friday. “We have fought the battle and he was a tough and brilliant opponent. I look forward to working with him for many years to come in order to make America great again.”
It must have been humbling for a man with Trump’s ego to utter such fine words about Cruz.
In May, just hours before ending his presidential campaign, Cruz said things about Trump that seemed to leave no room for reconciliation.
“This man is a pathological liar,” Cruz said. “He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth.”
“Donald will betray his supporters on every issue,” the Texas senator added, while calling Trump “utterly amoral,” “a narcissist,” “a bully,” and “a serial philanderer,” among other things.
Clinton addressed Cruz’s endorsement on social media by posting a tweet from Cruz himself calling on Trump to release his tax returns. The Texas senator released nine years of his returns, while Trump has refused to release any.
Her running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, took a dig at Cruz for expressing support despite the personal insults Trump rained down on him during the primaries.
“If somebody said that about my dad, they would never have me as a supporter for anything,” Kaine said as he campaigned in Texas.
But in politics, it’s all in a day’s work.