Ted Cruz and two of his closest allies told supporters on a conference call Monday night that they are not planning to challenge Donald Trump’s nomination at the Republican National Convention in July, according to multiple sources who took part.
The call was led by Ken Cuccinelli, the former attorney general of Virginia who has played a key role in Cruz’s delegate operation. Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, also joined the call, as did Cruz himself, who gave a brief statement.
The 25-minute call was a pep talk of sorts after the disappointment of last week’s Indiana primary, which forced Cruz to end his campaign and cemented Trump as the GOP’s presumptive nominee.
But the call was also a rallying cry to Cruz’s supporters about the importance of showing up in Cleveland and not ceding control of their slots on the party’s platform and rules committees.
“They made a point of saying, ‘This is not something nefarious we’re plotting at the convention,’” said Rep. Ken Buck, who chaired Cruz’s campaign in Colorado and is planning to attend the convention as a delegate. “The Cruz team really just wants to make sure the platform reflects conservative values so that conservatives are excited about turning out this November and in the future.”
Cruz, who spoke for four minutes, thanked supporters while acknowledging their disappointment along with his own. Asked to characterize Cruz’s remarks, one source on the call replied, “disappointed in [the] result, but no direct call to challenge Trump nomination. Simply to show up in Cleveland to protect [the] platform.”
Many Cruz allies are interested in seeing the Texas senator mount another presidential bid in 2020. But for now, the first source said, it “was very clear they were not trying to change [the] primary outcome, but wanting to influence rules and platform committee. No specific plan rolled out, simply asking people to come to Cleveland.”
Participants heard few specifics on which policies the team wants to see codified in the platform, though they came away with the impression that Cruz’s goal is defensive — to “protect the platform this time around from drastic change,” the source said.
Neither Cruz nor his surrogates spoke directly about Trump, whom Cruz had called a “pathological liar” on the final day of his campaign, or the schism Trump’s likely nomination is causing within the party as a growing number of establishment Republicans vow not to support him or attend the July convention.
In recent days, conservatives have decried Trump for breaking with party orthodoxy on issues that are core to the base, such as taxes and abortion.
“The unspoken message [on the call] is that we don’t know what’s going to happen in the next three to four months in terms of Donald Trump and his message, who he chooses as vice president and the best thing we can do is to be there and hope that Donald Trump proves he’s going to recognize conservatives in his administration,” Buck said.
Before the series of primaries last month in the Northeast and Indiana, which ultimately pushed Cruz out of the race, the Texas senator looked to have an edge in a contested convention scenario. His team had worked aggressively to ensure that his allies were elected at the local and state levels, to be in place to support him during multiple rounds of balloting in Cleveland.
Now that Trump is the presumptive nominee, it is unclear how many of those delegates, who will be paying their own way, will choose to attend the convention. Monday night’s call was designed to encourage them to make the trek and fight for conservative principles.
“The main thrust was, it is still [important] to stay engaged in the process, go to your state GOP convention if it remains upcoming and keep your plans to go to the convention in Cleveland,” another source said.