Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional comment.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz made his first public appearance Thursday on behalf of his party's presidential ticket, speaking at length about the stakes of the election and trumpeting Mike Pence — but voicing no direct support for Donald Trump.
"We're going to keep Republican control of the Senate, and we're going to defeat Hillary Clinton in this presidential election," Cruz said at a Pence rally in Iowa, one of several moments where Cruz stopped far short of making an unambiguous pitch for Trump, his former bitter rival in the primaries.
Cruz's relationship with the Trump-Pence ticket has been complicated, even after he finally backed the GOP nominee in September. Before that, Cruz withheld his support for months, including during a primetime speech at the Republican National Convention.
On Thursday, Cruz returned to the state where he first bested Trump in the nominating process, appearing with Pence, the Indiana governor who initially endorsed Cruz. At the Iowa rally, Cruz heaped praise on Pence, calling him "someone who today I call my friend and I very much look forward to calling Mr. Vice President."
That was about as direct as Cruz's remarks on the Trump-Pence team got. He otherwise spent most of his speech reiterating what he sees as critical issues in the election while exalting the need for Republicans in general to prevail Tuesday.
"If you care about the Constitution and Bill of Rights, if you care about free speech and religious liberty and the Second Amendment, then this election — putting a Republican in the White House and keeping a Republican Senate — is the whole enchilada," Cruz said.
Speaking with reporters after the rally, Cruz pushed back on the idea that he is not fully supportive of Trump. Cruz was en route to a second rally with Pence, scheduled for later Thursday in Michigan.
"I'll make a point: I'm getting ready to get on a gigantic airplane that has Donald Trump's name painted on the side of it," Cruz said, adding that he early voted for Trump on Monday.
At the Michigan rally, Cruz reportedly did do something he did not do earlier in the day: say the words "Donald Trump." The rare name check came while Cruz was urging a vote Tuesday for Republicans up and down the ballot.
At both events, Cruz did lend his support to a proposal Trump has been pushing for weeks, calling for a "special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute the corruption of Hillary Clinton." That set off chants of "Lock her up!" in the Hawkeye State crowd.
Cruz also alleged corruption at the U.S. Department of Justice. Hacked emails published Wednesday by the website WikiLeaks show that a senior official at the department gave Clinton's campaign chairman a "heads up" regarding the State Department's review of Clinton's email. Cruz said the official should be fired and Attorney General Loretta Lynch should resign.
Taking the stage after Cruz, Pence called the Texas senator a very good friend then pressed his case that the GOP is coalescing behind Trump in the home stretch. "Now this party is coming together," Pence said.
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Here’s what you need to know about voting in Texas this year:
- Get election stats for your county.
- What Texans need to know about voter ID.
- What are the rules for Texas poll watchers? We explain.
- The voting-age population figure being used by the Texas secretary of state's office to calculate registration and turnout percentages may be off the mark.
- A record 15.1 million Texans have registered to vote in the November election — a number that eclipses the preliminary estimate by more than 85,000.
- Texas ranked eighth-to-last in voter turnout for the presidential primaries.
- We’re tracking how many Texans are turning out to vote early this year compared to 2008 and 2012.