When Sen. Ted Cruz declined to endorse Donald Trump for president during a prime-time speech at the Republican National Convention Wednesday night, surrogates for the nominee were quick to condemn his remarks. Among them was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, one of the first rivals to endorse Trump, who called Cruz’s speech “selfish” and said it reneged on a pledge to support the nominee.
But Cruz’s campaign manager, defending his boss, said Cruz was standing for political principles, unlike his former rival.
Christie “turned over his political testicles long ago,” said Jeff Roe on the Chris Stigall Show Thursday. “So I don’t take what he has to say with any meaning.”
Roe also insisted that Cruz “didn’t sign a pledge to support a nominee by convention,” and that by historical standards, his speech was hardly a condemnation of the nominee. “You know, this speech went further than Ronald Reagan went on Gerald Ford,” Roe said. “It went further than Kennedy did for Carter.”
Roe said that Trump had known days in advance that Cruz would not endorse him, when the businessman called asking for Cruz’s explicit support. “Ted directly declined,” Roe said on the radio show. “And Mr. Trump heard that. And then we submitted the speech at 6:31 and there was some back and forth. They clearly would’ve liked us to go further.”
Cruz was booed Wednesday night during his remarks, in which he called on listeners to “vote their conscience.” In response to the chants of “we want Trump,” Cruz quipped that he appreciated the enthusiasm from the New York delegation.
The non-conciliatory nature of the speech, in comparison with those of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Marco Rubio — two other rivals who spoke Wednesday night — derailed what many Republicans hoped would be a show of unity behind the party’s divisive standard-bearer. After Cruz walked off stage, Trump tweeted that Cruz “didn’t honor the pledge” to support him but that it was still “no big deal”:
Roe, in his interview Thursday, also blamed an “active whip operation” for the highly negative reception, though he said he did not know if the Trump campaign had encouraged those on the floor to jeer Cruz’s speech.
“There was discussions had as recently as walking on the stage and we delivered the speech and 95 percent of the way through the speech the active whip operation got active,” Roe said. They “started demanding to endorse and booing and it obviously got sideways at the end.”
Roe also insisted Cruz’s decision not to endorse had nothing to do with the next presidential election in 2020, adding that Cruz is running for re-election to the Senate in 2018.
“If this was a 2020 power move by Ted Cruz, this would be the easiest speech to give, is to endorse,” Roe said. “This is not in defiance. We’re not gonna speak ill of the nominee. That’s not what this is about... This is a guy that has a core set of principles and he’s not willing to waver those in the face of intense pressure.”