Instead, Cruz’s remarks provoked backlash not only from delegates in Cleveland but also from allies in the conservative movement and top-dollar donors to his campaign. In the week and a half since his speech, some of Cruz’s longtime supporters have excoriated him both in private and in public, blowback that has far exceeded what Cruz and his team anticipated.
Unnerved by the scope of the fallout, Cruz is attempting to defuse tensions behind the scenes. He and his lieutenants are confident that the controversy will die down and believe that Trump’s every misstep between now and November will validate Cruz’s decision to withhold his support. They also realize, though, that his run in 2020 — not to mention his Senate reelection in 2018 — will be immeasurably more difficult without the support of the financial and grassroots networks he cultivated in 2016, significant portions of which he has angered with his recent actions.
With that in mind, Cruz convened a conference call with donors to his presidential campaign the weekend after his speech and worked to clarify his remarks, which were widely interpreted as a public rebuke of Trump. According to a participant on the call, Cruz told donors that he didn’t anticipate the intensity of the audience’s response; nor did he intend to signal his alliance with or allegiance to the so-called Never Trump movement, which has worked to recruit a third-party presidential candidate.
The senator’s top donors were crucial during the primary’s opening phase in amassing the funds — both for the campaign and the super PAC — needed to convince skeptics of his viability as a serious presidential candidate. But some of his high-profile benefactors, hell-bent on keeping Hillary Clinton out of the White House, are now livid at what they perceive as a betrayal of the pledge he made last year to support the Republican nominee.
The 2016 Republican runner-up, who has made little effort to mask his intention to run again in 2020, believed he was standing on principle — and protecting and promoting his brand — when he refused to endorse Donald Trump in his July 20 address to the GOP convention.