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After Bitter Primary Fight, Ted Cruz Backs Donald Trump

Sen. Ted Cruz spoke at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July and was booed off the stage.
Alex Wong
Getty Images
Sen. Ted Cruz spoke at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July and was booed off the stage.

After a bitter primary battle that culminated with Ted Cruz being booed off the stage at the Republican National Convention, the Texas senator says he will vote for Donald Trump.

Submissive conformity to Trump ... just cements Trump as the unopposed alpha in the GOP and hangs Cruz's conservative resistance out to dry.

In a 741-word Facebook post Friday, Cruz wrote that he made the decision because he wants to "keep his word" to vote for the Republican nominee and because he finds Hillary Clinton "wholly unacceptable."

It was hardly a full-throated endorsement. "After many months of careful consideration of prayer and searching my own conscience," Cruz said, "I have decided that on Election Day, I will vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump."

He ended his post saying, "[I]f you don't want to see a Hillary Clinton presidency, I encourage you to vote for him."

Trump said in a statement that he was "honored" to have Cruz's endorsement: "I am greatly honored by the endorsement of Senator Cruz. We have fought the battle and he was a tough and brilliant opponent. I look forward to working with him for many years to come in order to make America great again."

It's a remarkable turn for Cruz, who declined to endorse or express support for Trump even as late as the Republican convention in July in Cleveland. There, he was given a speaking slot and, in a scene almost out of professional wrestling, was booed off the stage as Trump emerged in the crowd and waved to supporters.

Trump and Cruz have had a bumpy relationship. Early on, they had something of an alliance, declining to attack each other in early debates. But the bromance did not last. Cruz wound up winning the Iowa caucuses, and the acrimony became so strong that Donald Trump accused Cruz's father, Rafael, of being involved with the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy.

Trump also insulted Cruz's wife, Heidi, retweeting an unflattering picture of her alongside a modeling photo of his own wife, Melania Trump, and threatening on Twitter to "spill the beans" about Mrs. Cruz without explaining what he meant.

The move may be a recognition by Cruz that his future is limited at the presidential level without Trump supporters, despite an earlier calculus that if Trump were to lose in a blowout, those voters would look toward Cruz in four years.

Some of Cruz's supporters are expressing disappointment with the senator's change of heart. On Twitter, conservative columnist and talk show host Steve Deace called the move the "worst political miscalculation of my lifetime" and said he suspected the move would cause more #NeverTrump voters to "dig in their heels deeper than be moved by Cruz's move."

"Cruz has nothing to gain from this, and everything to lose," Cruz's Iowa co-chair, Joel Kurtinitis, said in a message to NPR. "His brand is based on principled resistance. Submissive conformity to Trump — a man who personally slandered Cruz's family and hasn't apologized — just cements Trump as the unopposed alpha in the GOP and hangs Cruz's conservative resistance out to dry."

"This endorsement will not convince #NeverTrump folks to change our minds about The Donald," he continued, "but we may well be forced to reconsider our support for Sen. Cruz."

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Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.