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Cruz: Decision not to endorse Trump ‘personal’

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, addressing the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on Wednesday. | AP photo

CLEVELAND — Saying he won’t act as a “servile puppy dog,” Ted Cruz on Thursday morning told a Texas delegation he won’t vote for Hillary Clinton but isn’t ready to support Donald Trump, after “maligning my wife and maligning my father.”

Cruz stood on stage with the presidential candidates during the primary and pledged to vote for the Republican nominee. But Cruz said that decision is “personal” and changed when Trump attacked his family during the primary campaign.

“I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father,” Cruz told the delegation. “And that pledge was not a blanket commitment that if you go and slander and attack Heidi that I’m going to nonetheless come like a servile puppy dog and say thank you very much for maligning my wife and maligning my father.”

Asked by a delegate who he’ll vote for, Cruz said,”I can tell you I’m not voting for Hillary,” adding that he is still “watching” and “listening” to Trump to make his own decision.

Trump delivers his speech formally accepting the Republican presidential nomination on the closing night of the GOP convention as his campaign is still struggling to unite the Republican base.

Cruz’s refusal to endorse Trump in his Wednesday prime time address was the headline of the day because of his stature as the last man standing in the rugged 2016 GOP primary and his presumed 2020 White House ambitions. But rank and file Republicans in Cleveland just hours before Trump’s speech were still wrestling with whether to vote for Trump.

“I’m here to learn more about Trump and see what he is going to do,” said Illinois State Rep. Patti Bellock at the Illinois delegation breakfast. “I was not supportive of him before,” she said, ruling out a vote for Democrat Clinton.

Illinois Cruz delegate Jim Fisher, a farmer from Hudson, Ill. said he had no problem with Cruz’s speaking at the convention yet not backing Trump. Asked whether he was voting for Trump, Fisher paused and said, “I’m not going to vote for Hillary Clinton, let me put it that way.”

He said he wanted to choose his words carefully to avoid a story, “Cruz delegate now supports Trump.”

Illinois Cruz delegate Jim Fisher. Photo by Lynn Sweet
Illinois Cruz delegate Jim Fisher. Photo by Lynn Sweet

Another Illinois Cruz delegate, Christian Gramm, an attorney from Bloomington said “I was just tickled pink that he stood his ground and gave a speech that I think should have brought people together.”

Asked who he will support, Gramm said, “truthfully, I’m undecided at this point.” Was this hard to say as a Republican? “It is. Reagan’s line, ‘my party left me, I didn’t leave my party’ comes to mind.”

Illinois Cruz delegate Christian Gramm. Photo by Lynn Sweet
Illinois Cruz delegate Christian Gramm. Photo by Lynn Sweet

During the primary, Trump suggested that Cruz’s father had been with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy, citing a National Enquirer report.

“His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being — you know, shot,” Trump said during a phone interview with Fox News in May. “I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous.”

“What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. They don’t even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it.”

“I mean, what was he doing — what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting? It’s horrible.”

Trump and Cruz also got in a battle over wives, after Trump retweeted a photo of former fashion model Melania Trump alongside an unflattering shot of Cruz’s wife Heidi.

Trump blamed Cruz for an anti-Trump ad including a nude photo of Melania — a charge Cruz denied.

“Lyin’ Ted Cruz just used a picture of Melania from a G.Q. shoot in his ad,” Trump tweeted at the time. “Be careful, Lyin’ Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!”

EARLIER STORY: Ted Cruz snubs Donald Trump: ‘Vote your conscience’

Cruz stole the spotlight Wednesday night when he refused to endorse Trump during his prime-time speech.

On Thursday, defended his action, he said: “What I laid out last night was not a speech that was focused on me. Last night was a speech that was focused entirely on the United States of America on a path forward.

“What I said last night is what I believe is the only path to saving this country, and it is not simply blindly chanting a name and yelling down dissenters,” Cruz said, adding that his “soul cries” at where the country is at.