Via the Right Scoop, is it fair to read this passage that way? Sounds like there’s no question about how Cruz plans to vote, merely a question of whether, and how strongly, he should urge others to vote the same way.
While an explicit endorsement was out of the question, his advisers and confidants were bitterly divided over whether he should announce that he planned to vote for Trump in November: His campaign manager Jeff Roe and his longtime best friend David Panton were in favor, according to a source familiar with the internal debate, while finance chairman Willie Langston, campaign chairman Chad Sweet, and chief strategist Jason Johnson were against.
After a face-to-face meeting in early July between Cruz, Roe, Trump, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, both the Trump team and the RNC emerged with the understanding that Cruz would speak at the convention and promote party unity. Cruz and his team, meanwhile, didn’t believe the meeting had established any guidelines whatsoever for the senator’s remarks…
Torn in different directions, he arrived in Cleveland with several drafts of his speech, still searching for the words that could help him thread the needle and look simultaneously like a team player and a principled conservative. But the ones he finally settled on — “Don’t say home in November,” followed by “Vote your conscience” — didn’t go over well with a significant chunk of Cruz’s target audience.
Other Republicans this year have tried to split hairs by saying they’ll vote for Trump while avoiding the word “endorse.” The idea, I suppose, is that “endorse” carries an element of encouragement to others that stating one’s own preference doesn’t. Cruz could have gone that route: “My conscience tells me to support Donald Trump. Vote your conscience.” I think the crowd would have treated that as a de facto endorsement, though; problematically for Cruz, so would his conservative fans, who would have attacked him for selling out to Trump. The support-not-endorse dodge is simply too cute, especially coming from a politician like Cruz who often comes off as overly calculating and too clever by half. He was better off either doing what he did or swallowing his pride and issuing a formal endorsement in the interest of party unity and letting the chips fall where they may. Click the link up top and read the NRO piece that the excerpt comes from and you’ll find that the chips currently are falling heavily against him, with donors grumbling that they won’t raise money for him anymore and that a 2020 presidential run is “a pipe dream now.” Team Cruz seems genuinely surprised at the ferocity of the backlash. These guys really thought this was a principled conservative party despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, huh?
Rick Tyler, Cruz’s former spokesman, says there’s no way Cruz will reverse course and endorse Trump before the election now. Definitely true: It would reek of capitulation to anti-Trumpers and probably wouldn’t do much to repair Cruz’s image with those who are angry at him, having wasted his chance before a big TV audience in Cleveland to unite the party only to check the box later when no one’s paying attention. I wouldn’t put it past to him to go the support-not-endorse route this fall, though, especially if he senses that hard feelings among his donors aren’t softening. It’d be easy to do. Some reporter’s bound to corner him in September or October and ask him how he’s planning to vote; until now Cruz’s response has been along the lines of “I’m watching and thinking about it,” but the later it gets, the less persuasive that is. I bet he’ll let slip at some point that he’s personally voting for Trump while reiterating that everyone should vote their conscience so as not to be seen as contradicting himself at the convention. Some of his donors will probably treat that as close enough to an endorsement to forgive him. They must have some sympathy for Cruz’s position, after all, in being pressured to back Trump despite the personal insults to Heidi and Rafael Cruz. Would they really have been so eager to endorse Trump in front of 25 million people if he had pulled the “my wife’s prettier than yours” garbage on them? If so, that tells you a lot about the depth of toadying in this party. Exit question: How long does Ted wait before the ol’ support-not-endorse two-step? I think late September.