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  1. Florida Politics

Trump rips Cruz as he basks in the convention 'love'

Donald Trump speaks Friday at a goodbye reception after the Republican National Convention. With him are his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, his wife, Karen, and daughter Charlotte.
Donald Trump speaks Friday at a goodbye reception after the Republican National Convention. With him are his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, his wife, Karen, and daughter Charlotte.
Published Jul. 23, 2016

CLEVELAND — Donald Trump lashed out at Sen. Ted Cruz on Friday, rehashing a long list of grievances from their primary battle during a news conference here only hours after he accepted the Republican Party's presidential nomination at a weeklong convention meant to unite the party.

After bragging that he had unified the party in one of the most "love-filled" conventions in political history, Trump launched an extended diatribe against Cruz, who pointedly declined to endorse him during his own convention speech Wednesday night, instead urging people to vote their conscience. The speech embarrassed Trump and cast a shadow of discord over the convention, which had already been marred by plagiarism in Trump's wife's speech Monday night.

"I don't want his endorsement," Trump said angrily, in a rambling stream-of-consciousness performance that seemed half standup routine, half-vengeful rant. "If he gives it, I won't accept it."

The remarks were a remarkable display of lingering tension within the party and Trump's own inability to let go of grudges.

They also represented a seemingly inevitable reappearance of Trump's irrepressible id. The Republican nominee, having spoken from a teleprompter for more than an hour Thursday evening for the final night of his convention, seemed almost incapable of restraining himself any longer as the campaign moved to its next phase.

"Now it was the summer of Trump, it was the autumn of Trump, it was the Christmas of Trump," Trump said, with characteristic braggadocio. "It was everything."

Clearly still stung by Cruz's actions, Trump ruminated aloud about why the senator from Texas would not back him. He recalled their personal fights during the nominating contests, including the unflattering picture that Trump reposted on Twitter of Cruz's wife, Heidi, and he defended his suggestion that Cruz's father might have had a role in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, citing a report in the National Enquirer.

"This is a magazine that frankly in many respects should be very respected," Trump said of the tabloid.

Trump's comments about Heidi Cruz, which prompted an audible gasp from a member of his traveling press corps as he began his riff, is also likely to remind voters that he attacked Cruz's wife during the nominating contest. Trump is already struggling to woo female voters, who still view him overwhelmingly negatively, polls show.

Trying to explain away the incident also left him in the slightly uncomfortable situation of mentioning Penthouse, a risque magazine known for its nude photographs, as Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, Trump's running mate and a mild-mannered social conservative, stood looking on just behind him. (He mentioned the magazine in asserting that a nearly nude picture of his wife, Melania, was "artsy" and in GQ, which he said was hardly Penthouse.)

The Republican nominee also quipped that as president he might form a super PAC to challenge Cruz, before questioning the ethics of such a move. And he said that Cruz did not know how to properly use his intellect.

"He's got good intellect but he doesn't know how to use it and he was a good debater but he didn't do well in the debates against me," Trump said.

Nonetheless, Trump said that the convention had been a raging success and that the party was, in fact, coming together.

"That was unity," Trump said from a downtown hotel here with Pence standing behind him. "The party has just come together."

Although Pence briefly introduced Trump in what was billed as a goodbye reception for supporters, Trump called up on stage Dan Scavino Jr. — his social media director who took responsibility for a Star of David post on Twitter last month — before finally allowing his own running mate to address the crowd.

Pence, whose brief, humble remarks offered a stark contrast with those of Trump, largely struck a posture of benevolent amusement, standing at Trump's shoulder and chuckling lightly through the more provocative parts of his rant.

Trump, seemingly in jest, also suggested that he might fault Pence should he not win the White House in November.

"I ran as an outsider, I didn't want anybody. Now I have guys like Mike Pence," he said. "See now if I don't win, I'm going to blame Mike, right?

"We have to blame Mike," he added, as the small crowd in the small hotel ballroom chuckled uncertainly.