Three of Trump’s most ambivalent primary rivals are scheduled to take the stage on his behalf at the Republican National Convention tonight: Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas will speak despite their equivocal support and, in Cruz’s case, resistance to endorse.
Rubio, despite saying he will support the businessman, has expressed “significant disagreements” with his party’s divisive standard-bearer as he seeks re-election to the Senate. Walker said in June he doesn’t necessarily “embrace all the things that he says or all the ways that he says it,” according to the Mikwaukee Journal Sentinel, then sidestepped restating his support when condemning Trump’s attacks on a Hispanic judge a few days later.
“It’s just sad in America that we have such poor choices right now,” he said, according to Politico.
Cruz, Trump’s most successful rival, has resisted expressing support for the nominee at all, particularly after a bruising end to his campaign in which he slammed Trump as “utterly amoral” and “a pathological liar” for insinuating that his father was connected to John F. Kennedy’s assassin and attacking his wife. When it became known that Cruz would address the convention in a prime time slot before Trump’s marquee speech Thursday night, Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier insisted “there was no discussion of any endorsement,” according to the Texas Tribune.
Cruz is likely to win re-election for his Senate seat in 2018 and has kept his political ambitions kindled, perhaps for a 2020 run. His team is conducting an autopsy of his presidential bid and he has started two nonprofits to maintain his database of grassroots donors and promote his conservative agenda, the National Review reported.
Cruz told Politico in an interview released Monday that he is still “listening and watching and coming to a decision” on the nominee, but declined to say if he would endorse Trump in his speech Wednesday night. Instead, he said, his speech will focus on a conservative agenda that is not necessarily tied to that of the nominee.
Still, the Trump camp expects Cruz to fall in line. Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort said Wednesday that Cruz’s speech “will leave no doubt that he wants Donald Trump to be president of the United States,” though he admitted he has not reviewed the senator’s remarks.
For all of Trump’s efforts to unify the party, one former presidential rival has resisted Trump’s overtures entirely.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich is pointedly staying away despite the convention’s location in his home state, choosing instead to attend fundraisers for Republican candidates down-ticket in the city. Trump’s son Donald Jr. reportedly approached Kasich’s team after he dropped out, promising to make him “the most powerful vice president in history,” the New York Times wrote.
But Kasich insisted publicly that he had no desire to be Trump’s running mate. The Republican nominee eventually selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to join him on the ticket. Pence will also speak tonight.