Donald Trump’s campaign came back swinging at Sen. Ted Cruz Thursday, painting him as a convention outcast who broke an campaign pledge to support the party’s nominee.
Cruz’s 23-minute Wednesday night speech didn’t include an endorsement of Trump, only congratulations, a defiant step that created an ugly scene, as delegates in the pro-Trump hall shouted through the end of his speech and booed.
Thursday, Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, recalled how Cruz had pledged to support the eventual winner.
"Everybody knew about the pledges. They knew what that meant," Manafort told a news conference. "(They knew) what obligation it put on them and how they interpreted their obligation."
Cruz, he said mockingly is "a strict constitutionalist (who) chose not to accept the strict terms of the pledge that he signed. As far as the contract was concerned, he was in violation not anybody else."
Cruz swung back Thursday morning, telling a Texas delegation breakfast audience “I'm not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father. That pledge was not a blanket commitment that if you go and slander and attack Heidi that I'm gonna nonetheless come like a servile puppy dog and say thank you very much for maligning my wife and maligning my father .”
Trump had vacillated on the pledge himself. Republican Party officials devised the pledge last year as a way of making sure Trump, who had never run for elective office, was committed to remaining in the party. He had hinted about a third party bid if he was not treated "fairly," and earlier this year suggested that was not happening.
It’s never been clear what Cruz has signed, according to PolitiFact, and the senator has made conflicting statements about his support for the pledge. On March 12, he said he was committed to support the GOP nominee. On March 30, he told CNN, after Trump criticized his family, Cruz said at a debate "I'm not in the habit of supporting someone who attacks my wife and attacks my family."
I pledged at the outset I will support the Republican nominee, whoever it is ... when I give my word for something, I follow through and do what I said.
Sen. Ted Cruz on MSNBC March 13
The pledge read: "I (name) affirm that if I do not win the 2016 Republican nomination for president of the United States I will endorse the 2016 Republican presidential nominee regardless of who it is. I further pledge that I will not seek to run as an independent or write-in candidate nor will I seek or accept the nomination for president of any other party."
Trump was trying to be generous in allowing Cruz to speak in a prime slot. Trump, Manafort said, "invited all the presidential candidates who ran to come to this convention and speak.
"He felt they had been through the crucible of a campaign and…they had a right to speak."
Trump put no conditions-on the speeches. "We never said that there were conditions," he said.
But those who did speak "in his own way said they support the ticket or are voting for the ticket or endorse the ticket," Manafort noted. "Only Sen. Cruz chose to slip away...and frankly he was the only speech of the convention that was poorly received by the body in the hall."
He insisted the convention was unified, though the scene on the floor Wednesday night suggested otherwise.
"There are a number of Cruz delegates who were on the floor last night who disagreed with what Sen. Cruz did including in his home state of Texas," Manafort said. "People were coming up to us saying this wasn’t right of Cruz, that they were supporting the Trump-Pence ticket."