Delegates describe chaos on convention floor during Ted Cruz's RNC speech

Delegates on the floor at the RNC. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/WireImage)

CLEVELAND — The third night of the Republican National Convention was the craziest yet.

The primetime program of speakers was going relatively smoothly until Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who came in second place to Donald Trump in the primaries, took the stage. Cruz declined to endorse Trump, who is now the party’s nominee for president, and told people to “vote their conscience” in November.

Some delegates from both Cruz and Trump’s home states saw this as a sign of disrespect, while some applauded Cruz for going against the grain.

“The question is, do you believe that the convention belongs to the nominee or that it belongs to the delegates and the party?” Texas delegate Michael Goldman told Business Insider Wednesday night. “And I’m firmly in the second camp. Not all of us who came here came for that person who was nominated. I came for Sen. Cruz.”

Goldman said he voted for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in the primaries, but came to the convention as delegate bound to Cruz. He said he was “thrilled” that Cruz didn’t endorse Trump, but acknowledged that there was a “big divide” in the Texas delegation on the convention floor.

“I would say it was a minority of the delegation that was really happy that he put some daylight between himself and the nominee, but it was a substantial, healthy element,” Goldman said.

Texas delegate Colton Buckley said he wasn’t surprised at Cruz’s speech — or the reaction to it. Once it became clear that Cruz would not endorse Trump, many in the arena started chanting and booing, eventually drowning out Cruz’s speech.

“In Texas, when you sign a document or a pledge that says you’re going to stand up and support your party’s respective nominee whether it’s you or not, you know that bond means something,” Buckley said. “And Ted Cruz showed tonight on numerous occasions that he’s not a true Texan.”

Some Texas delegates were displeased with another aspect of the Cruz portion of the evening — the fact that Trump created a distraction by entering the arena at the end of his speech.

“I thought it was uncalled for,” Chris Carmona, a Texas delegate who supported Cruz in the primaries, said.

He said some of the booing toward the end of Cruz’s speech came from delegates who were angry with Trump stealing the spotlight.

“There were a lot of boos at the end for Trump interrupting his speech,” Carmona said. “[A] lot of people didn’t realise that.”

He described one scene he witnessed on the floor within the Texas delegation: “A guy near us lost his mind. Yelled ‘Classless!’ It was funny.”

Delegates from Trump’s home state slammed Cruz over his speech.

“I think he blew the value of his speech,” Joe Kasper, a New York delegate, said. “It was a really good speech, it was really intellectual, he was intelligent, he was well-spoken, but New Yorkers are smart and we realised when he was winding down his speech that he wasn’t going to endorse Donald and we think he’s a fool.”

Kasper described the scene from the New York delegation: “We started chanting ‘Endorse Trump!’ and then when he didn’t, we interrupted him, and he was booed. And rightly so.”

Kasper, who said his “loyalties were equally divided” between Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the primaries, said that Trump showing up at the tail end of Cruz’s speech was him trying to show that this convention is not “business-as-usual.”

Chris Arnold, an honorary delegate from New York, said it “didn’t take a lot of courage” for Cruz to do what he did.

“He showed a great amount of disrespect to the overwhelming amount of people that voted for our nominee, Donald Trump, the most in the history of any primary,” Arnold said. “[W]hat we saw was completely self-serving.”

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