When an eminent presidential historian such as Michael Beschloss tweets that he’s never seen anything quite like it, you know you’ve had a hell of a night at the Republican National Convention.
Another sign of a hell of a night: The top winner and the top loser Wednesday night were the same person.
1. Ted Cruz.
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Party unity? Uh, no. The former and future presidential candidate was aggressively booed off the stage and his wife escorted out surrounded by security after he declined to endorse Donald Trump.
His was the most anticipated speech of the night before it leaked that he would not endorse. Cruz received a long standing ovation when he took the stage, and he began nicely enough, congratulating Trump on winning the nomination.
He went on to espouse Republican principles, trash Democrats and use children as campaign props (as he has done before).
Toward the end of his time, he implored: “Don’t stay home in November. Vote your conscience. Vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and be faithful to the Constitution.”
The boos started hailing down on him. “Say it!” delegates yelled. “Keep your pledge!” they chanted, about Cruz’s promise to support the eventual Republican nominee.
Cruz wasn’t finished, but no one could hear the final paragraphs of his speech over the boos. Even if Trump supporters’ bashing someone for not toeing the party line was the ultimate irony, the smell of burnt bridges filled the air.
(As an aside for you N.C. readers: Cruz trumpeted states’ rights, and the crowd lapped it up. “The Constitution allows states to choose local values. … New York is different than Iowa. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Diversity. If not, what’s the point of having states to begin with?” Apparently, Republican backers of HB2 don’t think Cruz’s federalism extends to cities like Charlotte passing local ordinances.)
2. Eric Trump.
The poor guy didn’t stand a chance. He took the stage right after Cruz was chased off of it, and nothing he could say was going to cut through the post-Cruz buzz crackling through the room. Then the big-screen TVs around the arena flickered out, and no one could see him.
On top of that, his remarks were vanilla, paling in comparison to those of his older brother, Donald Trump Jr., the night before.
3. Meredith McIver.
She stepped up to put an end to a 36-hour story over apparent plagiarism in Melania Trump’s Monday night speech. McIver, a speechwriter for Donald Trump’s company, said it was unintentional. She offered her resignation; Trump refused to accept it. From the Trump campaign’s perspective, this may blessedly put an end to the story. Why McIver didn’t step up for a day and a half while the Trump camp denied there was a problem is still a mystery.
1. Ted Cruz.
It’s possible that Cruz comes out of the briar patch without a scratch. Yes, it appeared at the time like he was killing his future. But think of it this way: He merely refused to endorse a man who had dubbed him “Lyin’ Ted” and had insulted his wife and father. He stayed true to his beliefs. If and when Trump loses, Cruz will emerge, with John Kasich, as one of the only high-profile Republicans not to go back on their own words to bow down to Trump. We’re looking at you, Marco Rubio.
Cruz knew precisely what he was doing (as did Trump, by the way). Time will tell if he was crafty like a fox or too clever for his own good.
2. Mike Pence.
The vice presidential candidate made his national debut and pretty much nailed it. He introduced himself and described his accomplishments, he lavished praise on the top of the ticket, and he eviscerated opponent Hillary Clinton without come across as rabid or over the top, like so many speakers have. Not much Pence could have done to improve, other than cut at least 10 minutes off his lengthy remarks.
3. Newt Gingrich.
Newt always thinks of himself as the smartest person in the room, and judging by the early speakers Wednesday, it’s almost certain he was. Scaring the living daylights out of people isn’t my idea of a great speech, but this crowd loved it and he showed presence and command of foreign policy issues. All in all, a good audition for Secretary of State in a Trump administration.