The Slatest

Ted Cruz Says He Won’t Be Trump’s “Servile Puppy Dog”

Ted Cruz, who drew the ire of the RNC crowd when he refused to endorse Donald Trump on Wednesday night, explained this morning that his decision was indeed personal.

“I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father,” the Texas senator said at his home state’s delegation breakfast in Cleveland on Thursday. “And that pledge [to support the GOP nominee] was not a blanket commitment that if you [attack] Heidi I’m going to nonetheless go like a servile puppy dog and say, thank you very much for maligning my wife and maligning my father.”

A refresher for those who need it: Cruz spent the early days of the GOP primary running in the slipstream of Donald Trump’s bluster before ultimately breaking with the longtime polling leader shortly before the actual nominating contests began. Things would get particularly nasty between the two before the race was over. Trump, among other things, insulted the physical appearance of Cruz’s wife, Heidi, and suggested that Cruz’s father, Rafael, may have been involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Cruz’s non-endorsement is the top story coming out of the convention’s third night, which would traditionally would be dominated by coverage of the vice presidential nominee’s prime-time address. (Sorry, Mike Pence!) Regardless of Cruz’s personal motivations, it was clear that the Texas senator and, yes, 2020 GOP hopeful is also playing the long game right now. As Reihan Salam explains in Slate, Cruz’s RNC decision was a rather brilliant career move.

Cruz, who urged Republicans to vote their “conscience” on Wednesday, refused on Thursday to say who he will cast a ballot for in November, though he did rule out the idea of voting for the Democratic nominee. “As I told you last night the standard I intend to apply is, which candidate I trust to defend our freedom, be faithful to the Constitution,” Cruz said, before adding: “But I can tell you I’m not voting for Hillary.”

Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign.