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Opinion: Ted Cruz’s 2020 presidential campaign began on Wednesday night

Sen. Ted Cruz greets the audience on the third day of the Republican National Convention.
(Los Angeles Times)

After thousands upon thousands of words, the most electric moment of the Republican National Convention on Wednesday came from words that weren’t said: Ted Cruz couldn’t bring himself to endorse Donald Trump.

In a passionate speech that sounded like the one he would have given had he won the GOP nomination, Cruz called on conservatives to “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.”

But he didn’t ask them to vote for Trump, whom he accused, during their bitter primary campaign, of insufficient respect for constitutional rights. Hundreds of Trump delegates on the floor, knowing exactly what Cruz’s omission meant, erupted in furious boos. So Cruz doubled down. “We will unite the country by standing together for shared values and standing together for liberty,” he said. (But not necessarily for Donald Trump.)

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More boos from the floor, countered by cheers from the minority of Cruz delegates on the floor. Security officers escorted Cruz and his wife, Heidi, from the hall.

The message: Ted Cruz plans to persist as a champion of quasi-libertarian constitutionalism – and he wants nothing to do with the jumbled heterodoxy of Trumpism. His candidacy for the 2020 Republican nomination has already begun – and he might run even if Trump wins this year.

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