Cruz's Call for Freedom and Conservative Principles Cheered Until the End; 'Vote Your Conscience'

Susan Jones | July 21, 2016 | 5:48am EDT
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Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, walks from the podium after speaking during the Republican National Convention, Wednesday, July 20, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

( - Although "Ted Cruz booed off the stage" was the Thursday-morning headline, his powerful speech Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention was well-received until the very end, when it became clear he would not endorse Donald Trump.

Greeted with rousing cheers, Cruz began his 22-minute speech by congratulating Donald Trump on winning the Republican presidential nomination.

"And like each of you, I want to see the principles that our party believes (in) prevail in November," Cruz said.

He talked first about the shooting of Dallas police officer Michael Smith. The hall fell silent as Cruz told the story of Smith's young daughter who kissed her father goodbye for the very last time the day he died.

Cruz also talked about others who have "had their lives destroyed by evil."

Then he asked a question: "What if this, right now, is our last time -- our last moment to do something for our families and our country? Did we live up to the values we say we believe? Did we do all we really could?

"We're fighting, not for one particular candidate or one campaign, but because each of us wants to be able to tell our kids and our grandkids that we did our best for their future and our country."

The theme of Cruz's speech was "freedom," and the crowd loved it, interrupting him repeatedly with cheers and applause.

"Our nation is exceptional because it was built it on the five most beautiful and powerful words in the English language -- I want to be free."

Cruz said Americans are "rightly furious" at a political establishment that ignores the will of the people. "We have to do better -- we owe our fallen heroes more than that," he said.

Cruz also talked about the "profound difference" between the two parties' vision for the future.  "I am here to tell you there is a better vision for our future. A return to freedom."

He mentioned free speech; religious freedom; the bill of rights guaranteeing everyone's freedom, regardless of sexual orientation; the right to keep and bear arms; the right to life; the requirement that Supreme Court justices to follow the Constitution; and the freedom for states to choose policies that reflect local values.

Cruz said Hillary Clinton believes government should make those choices for the people.

At the end of his speech, Cruz described the November election as a fight for freedom:

"We deserve leaders who stand for principle, who unite us all behind shared values, who cast aside anger for love. That is the standard we should expect for everybody.

"And to those listening. Please. Don't stay home in November. (Cheering and chants.)

"If you love our country and love your children as much as I know that you do -- 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."

Many in the crowd responded with cries of  "We want Trump!" and "Endorse Trump!"

"I appreciate the enthusiasm of the New York delegation," Cruz said, responding to the chants. "And I will tell you, it is love of freedom that has allowed millions to achieve their dreams." He talked about his mother and father, but the restive crowd was no longer receptive.

Cruz nevertheless continued: "We must make the most of our moments -- to fight for freedom, to protect our God-given rights, even of those with whom we don't agree -- so that when we are old and gray and when our work is done, and we give those we love one final kiss goodbye, we will be able to say freedom matters, and I was part of something beautiful."

(More cries of "We want Trump!")

Cruz, speaking over the boos, continued: "The case we have to make to the American people...the case each person in this room has to make to the American people is to commit to each of them that we will defend freedom and be faithful to the Constitution. We will unite the party, we will unite the country by standing together for shared values, by standing for liberty."

His final God-bless-yous were drowned with boos as the video cut to a waving Trump behind the scenes.

Later, Newt Gingrich told the crowd they had "misunderstood" Cruz.

"Ted Cruz said you can vote your conscience for anyone 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."

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