- - Thursday, July 21, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Just for a moment while watching Sen. Ted Cruz’s convention speech, I was hopeful he would take one for the team, bury the hatchet and help heal the GOP during this divisive election cycle. Just maybe he would not think of himself and the next election in 2020, but instead about the urgency of winning this November, especially after the GOP has failed to win the presidency two times in a row.

Instead, Mr. Cruz made it personal and refused to forgive the GOP nominee Donald Trump for his comments about his wife and father. In his speech, the Texas Republican defiantly urged delegates to “vote your conscience,” which thrilled the #NeverTrumpers but infuriated a vast majority of the GOP convention delegates.

At the Texas delegation breakfast the morning after his speech, the room was tense and many of the delegates felt betrayed by their senator. Asked point-blank if he would vote for Mr. Trump, Mr. Cruz responded that he is still watching and listening to the campaign. An African-American woman gave an emotional plea, telling Mr. Cruz, “My family has supported you when you ran for Senate and you are not standing with us the people.”

Family fights happen, but time is running out for such an important conservative leader like Mr. Cruz to watch from the sidelines. Hillary Clinton is out-organizing, outspending and outperforming the Trump campaign out on the trail, and the GOP risks losing a race to one of the most beatable and unlikable Democratic candidates ever put forward.

It takes unity to rally grass-roots activists and give them the support and reassurance that they need to win. As Ronald Reagan said after his tough primary loss during the 1976 convention, “We must go forth from here united, determined that what a great general said a few years ago is true: ‘There is no substitute for victory, Mr. President.’”


SEE ALSO: Mike Huckabee: Ted Cruz supporters embarrassed by him


Mr. Cruz should take a page from the Reagan playbook.

While Mr. Trump is far from a perfect candidate, conservatives like Mr. Cruz will have a seat at the table in his administration. Mr. Trump sent a clear message to conservatives by picking Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his vice president. Mr. Cruz should at the very least stand by a proven conservative leader like Mr. Pence, but he did not even mention him in his speech. It began with a powerful message on freedoms and limited government, but ended abruptly to a chorus of boos as it became clear Mr. Cruz was not ready to endorse his rival. Overnight, Mr. Cruz went from being a hero of the conservative cause to a huge disappointment among many delegates.

Even worse, the sideshow fueled by Mr. Cruz’s personal grudge does nothing to advance his conservative principles or help the party. Mr. Cruz is needed on the Trump team because he knows how to effectively articulate the conservative message. Reagan campaigned for Gerald Ford in 1976, putting his own political ambitions on hold for the sake of calming the political storm. The rest is history.

The political fallout for Mr. Cruz is real. If Mrs. Clinton wins in November, Mr. Cruz will have a difficult time rebuilding his base and ever attracting Trump supporters, who would rightly feel rejected and betrayed.

I have great respect for Mr. Cruz and his wife Heidi, and I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to come in second place, especially when he clearly ran a strong and well-organized campaign. Politics can get downright nasty, but there comes a time when the party must unite for a common goal, which is to defeat Hillary Clinton. As Gov. Scott Walker said, “”Even though Donald Trump wasn’t my first pick, as I said, anyone is better than Hillary.”

Because of Mr. Cruz’s ill-considered speech, the mainstream media were all too happy to gloss over vice presidential nominee Mike Pence’s inspirational and Reaganesque speech. To the dismay of convention planners, “Make America First” night morphed into “Make Cruz the Story” night.

Mr. Cruz was not thinking about the thousands of delegates and millions of voters who backed Mr. Trump. It’s Mr. Trump’s convention, and I wish Mr. Cruz had remembered that.

Mercedes Schlapp is a Fox News contributor, co-founder of Cove Strategies and former White House director of specialty media under President George W. Bush.

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