* Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.
DALLAS — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, sought Saturday to re-energize his most loyal supporters after a tough defeat in the presidential race, urging them not to abandon the conservative movement.
Speaking here at the Texas GOP convention, Cruz railed against a media "trying to use this election to write the epitaph for the conservative movement" — a notion he called a "complete and utter lie." He expressed some uncertainty about the future — even some pessimism — but vowed to forge on in the U.S. Senate.
"I don't know what the future will hold, but I want to encourage each of you to have hope," Cruz said. "Every principle that we fought for in the presidential campaign — jobs, freedom and security — I intend to fight for" in the Senate.
Cruz acknowledged the possibility of "some challenging days ahead" but urged resilience among his supporters. "For those who are discouraged, let me simply say this: Truth will prevail," Cruz said.
It was Cruz's first major speech since he ended his campaign earlier this month, following a devastating loss to Trump in the Indiana primary. He received an enthusiastic reception from the home-state crowd, which was filled with "Thank You Ted" signs. Before he spoke, an announcer asked members of the audience not to "rush the stage" when he came out.
The speech was a return to form for Cruz, who bypassed any mention of Trump or even the notion of a presumptive nominee to instead detail his own definition of conservative. If someone "stands in front of you and says this is what government's going to do for you," Cruz said, "they ain't a conservative."
Cruz reflected on what could have been, saying his wife Heidi, who introduced him, would have been a great first lady and his father Rafael would have been a great first dad. As for his short-lived running mate, Carly Fiorina, Cruz said she "would've made a phenomenal vice president, and she just might some day in the future."
The speech otherwise served as an extended thank-you note to Cruz's home-state supporters, thousands of whom volunteered for his campaign and traveled across the country — many on their own dime. He also put his presidential effort in context for his loyalists, asking them to remember the humble beginnings of his political career.
"It was five years ago when an unknown lawyer from Houston announced an improbable campaign for the United States Senate," he said.
Trump tasked U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama to make his case to Texas Republican delegates, most of whom were Cruz loyalists during the campaign.
"Let’s welcome back our independents and our Reagan Democrats," Sessions said. "Let’s put this tough primary behind us. It was rough, no doubt about it, but we can — and will — unite all our Republicans, in addition to the Democrats and independents that can come to us."
"Let’s throw the rascals out!” he added.
Jesse Davis is a delegate from Denton County and a long-time admirer of Sessions. But this Republican delegate found the Trump surrogate's speech unimpressive.
"Maybe that’s the idea: You send Grandpa Jeff, Uncle Jeff to tone things down and make everybody feel better about the Trump nomination," he said. "But I thought he was weak sauce, especially following Ted cruz."
"Cruz gave a rousing speech," he added. "Cruz could have walked out of this room with every delegate behind him on almost any issue."