Fresh off the Republican convention, Donald Trump breezily sparred anew Friday, relitigating an old feud with chief rival Ted Cruz and telling the “haters” they had no choice but to back his historic campaign.
A moment that should have provided an easy victory lap after his fairly well-received nomination acceptance speech quickly rambled into classic Trump terrain, the GOP nominee happily poking at all comers, and suggested that he will use the same tactics in the general election that won him success in the party primaries.
Trump said he couldn't care less that Cruz declined to endorse him in a dramatic convention floor snub. He bragged about the “movement” behind his improbable political rise. He ridiculed GOP naysayers. And he even joked that he could have made big bucks reselling tickets to his convention speech on EBay.
“This is was probably one of the most peaceful, one of the most beautiful, one of the most loved-filled conventions in the history of conventions,” Trump said at a hastily called appreciation event for volunteers in Cleveland.
“That was unity,” he said, excepting the part about Cruz — when “somebody got booed out of a place by thousands and thousands of people.”
“Whether you’re a senator from Texas or any of the other people that I beat so easily and so badly,” Trump said about his primary rivals, “you have no choice. You gotta go for Trump.”
The moment was typical Trump, not just in its freewheeling, unplugged style, but in his penchant for dredging up past grievances when he could be forward looking to new challenges.
Attention was shifting Friday to the general election and Democrat Hillary Clinton's anticipated announcement of her vice-presidential pick.
But rather than engage in that front, Trump busily attacked Cruz over past slights.
“I don’t want his endorsement,” Trump said. "If he gives it, I will not accept it."
Cruz had said this week that Trump’s attacks on his wife and father during the last days of the brutal primary were the main reasons he declined to endorse. But Trump took no blame for those episodes.
"I didn't start anything with the wife," Trump said of the attack ads, which he retweeted, that featured an unflattering photo of Heidi Cruz. He blamed it on the PAC that ran the ad.
As for having linked Cruz’s father to President John F. Kennedy’s assassination without evidence, Trump said all he did was point out a National Enquirer photo that appeared to show Rafael Cruz with shooter Lee Harvey Oswald.
“It had nothing to do with me, except I might have pointed it out,” Trump said, adding that the tabloid should have won Pulitzer prizes for its other investigative stories.
“Ted, stay home, relax, enjoy yourself,” he said, adding that Cruz probably hurt his own future White House aspirations by not backing the campaign.
Then Trump couldn’t help but take one more swing:
"Maybe I’ll set up a super PAC if he decides to run," Trump said. "Are you allowed to set up a super PAC, if you are the president, to fight somebody?"
While Trump succeeded in salvaging the often chaotic Republican convention with his speech — a dark and gloomy assessment of the country’s state of affairs roused the crowd — the businessman still has a long way to go to attract voters to win the White House.
President Obama, meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto at the White House, took issue with the “vision of violence and chaos” he said was painted by speakers at the Republican convention.
Americans woke up Friday to find “birds were chirping and the sun was out," Obama said, adding that “some of the fears that were expressed [at the Republican convention] just don’t jibe with the facts.”
For his part, Trump finally did focus on Clinton, as Democrats prepared for their own convention next week in Philadelphia.
He promised to hit the campaign trail with vigor, and said that after the Republican convention, he doubted anyone would want to watch the Democrats with Clinton because it would be so “boring.”
“I am going to be working so hard,” he said. “I don’t do anything unless I win. Otherwise, what have we done?”
Staff writer Christi Parsons in Washington contributed to this report.