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Cruz Booed After Failing to Endorse Trump

As it became apparent Ted Cruz would not endorse Donald Trump, the crowd inside the Quicken Loans Arena reacted with increasing anger, and Cruz left the stage to thundering boos.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz addresses the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio on July 20, 2016.

Editor's note: This story has been updated.

CLEVELAND — Ted Cruz, in a highly anticipated speech at the Republican National Convention, offered no direct support for presidential nominee Donald Trump, setting off a furious reaction as he told delegates to vote their conscience in November.

As it became apparent Cruz would not endorse Trump Wednesday night, the crowd inside the Quicken Loans Arena reacted with increasing anger. Recognizing the negative reaction from Trump's home state, Cruz deviated from his prepared remarks to acidly comment, "I appreciate the enthusiasm of the New York delegation."

Cruz's remarks amounted to a decisive non-endorsement of his party's standard-bearer, with whom the Texas senator bitterly clashed during the primaries. By the time Cruz was done speaking, delegates appeared to be in uniform revolt, providing thundering boos as Cruz left the stage.

Trump himself entered the convention hall as Cruz's speech was ending, drawing away attention from delegates and television cameras.

Cruz's remarks, delivered in a primetime address, were laced with themes of unity but are guaranteed to extend the long-running rift between Cruz and Trump, whom vanquished the Texas senator more than two months ago in a victory that paved his path to the nomination.

“To those listening, please don’t stay home in November,” Cruz told delegates. “Stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.”

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Cruz only mentioned Trump’s name once — toward the beginning of his speech, when he congratulated the billionaire on formally clinching the nomination Tuesday night. Beyond that, Cruz only provided a general criteria for who should lead the country: “Leaders who stand for principle. Unite us all behind shared values. Cast aside anger for love.”

“That is the standard we should expect,” Cruz said, “from everybody.”

While he came nowhere close to endorsing Trump, Cruz did talk up the party that chose him, saying there is a “profound difference in our parties’ visions for the future.” Cruz went on to drive familiar attacks against President Barack Obama and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, saying she “believes government should make virtually every choice in your life.”

The most compelling parts of Cruz’s speech, however, touched on a sense of unity broader than politics. 

He put the presidential election firmly in the context of social unrest across the United States, lamenting how “partisan rancor, anger, even hatred, are tearing America apart.” He specially devoted a section of his speech to those impacted by the shooting earlier this month in Dallas that left five police officers dead and seven others wounded.

“Citizens are furious — rightly furious — at a political establishment that cynically breaks its promises and ignores the will of the people,” Cruz said. “We have to do better. We owe our fallen heroes more than that.”

The intense reaction to Cruz's speech rippled throughout the arena long after he left the stage. When it was Newt Gingrich's turn to speak, the former U.S. House speaker sought to soothe the crowd with a positive spin on Cruz's speech.

"I think you misunderstood one paragraph that Ted, who is a superb orator, said," Gingrich told delegates. "Ted Cruz said you can vote your conscience who will uphold the Constitution. In this election, there is only one candidate who will uphold the Constitution. So to paraphrase Ted Cruz, if you want to protect the Constitution of the United States, the only possible candidate this fall is the Trump-Pence Republican ticket."

Trump himself did not react to Cruz’s speech until after the speeches of night were done.

“Wow, Ted Cruz got booed off the stage, didn’t honor the pledge!” Trump tweeted, referring to the pledge all GOP candidates took last year to support the eventual nominee. “I saw his speech two hours early but let him speak anyway. No big deal!”

Earlier in the night, longtime Cruz adviser Jason Johnson suggested Trump had known what was coming for much longer. “Cruz told Trump directly two days ago,” Johnson tweeted.

One South Carolina delegate who likes Cruz said she was put off by his speech.

"I’ve never been a Trump supporter, I was actually going to vote for Cruz if there was going to be a second ballot a while back," said Nate Leupp. "Towards the end of his speech, Cruz said a key phrase that is well known, 'Vote your conscience.' He followed that by saying 'down-ballot races.'"

Her interpretation: Turn out to vote and vote for Republicans for other offices on the ballot, but disregard Trump.

"He basically said, 'You need to get out to vote, vote your conscience, and vote down ballot races, which I thought was totally inappropriate," Leupp said. "He didn’t need to say that. I don’t personally think he had to endorse — would have been nice — I thought it was very inappropriate to say that phrase to this crowd."

Not everyone was put off by Cruz’s speech. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton expressed no qualms about the speech as he left the arena afterward, saying Cruz, whom Paxton supported in the primary, “did a good job.”

“Look, I think in the end, it’s not going to matter,” Paxton said. “I think there’s obviously people who wanted him to make the endorsement. It is a personal choice. He may make that decision in a day, in a week. He’s got to come to terms with that himself, and I think we’ve just got to move on.”

Cruz placed second for the nomination in a formal roll call vote Tuesday night, with 475 delegates to Trump's 1,725. But it was a bitter primary fight, and the degree to which Cruz would offer support to Trump in his speech was one of the most anticipated moments of the convention. 

Cruz reorganized his political operation earlier this month, and many in GOP politics believe he already has his eye on the 2020 presidential race — regardless of Trump's fortunes in November. 

Earlier in the day, Cruz held a Cleveland rally to thank supporters. He is scheduled to address his fellow Texans at the state GOP's breakfast Thursday morning. 

Abby Livingston contributed to this report. 

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