- Ted Cruz and allies are unhappy with other candidates, the media and others they blame for Donald Trump's success
- Cruz has thus far declined to endorse Trump
Washington (CNN)It was the Fox News commentators who wouldn't embrace him.
Or the John Kasichs, who wouldn't exit for him. Or the Marco Rubios, who wouldn't join him.
Ted Cruz, ousted from the presidential race a week ago after a devastating final loss to Donald Trump in Indiana, is now training his ire in this new chapter of his political career on the forces who he believes made Trump the nominee. And the culprits are everywhere, with Cruz and his aides struggling to move past the machinations and tactics that wronged him -- never mind to unify behind Trump and endorse him.
It is hardly unusual for wounds to be raw after a bruising presidential campaign, especially one in which Cruz's father and wife were personally attacked by Trump and his associates. Yet the bitterness from the presidential candidate himself and his allies in the first weeks after Cruz receded from day-to-day combat with Trump has been particularly public.
"Listen, there's time for recriminations, and everyone who is responsible for the rise of Donald Trump, they will bear that responsibility going forward," Cruz told Houston radio host Michael Berry this week. Berry wanted to know if Fox News -- whose executives Cruz criticized by name on the final day of his campaign -- was at fault.
Cruz will deliver his first speech since leaving the race to the Texas Republican convention on Saturday, where thousands of crushed Cruz supporters have gathered in Dallas. Cruz has promised to look forward, checking the rear-view mirror merely to say "thank you" to the Texas volunteers who uprooted their lives to crash dorm rooms in Iowa, South Carolina, Wisconsin and Indiana and volunteer for his campaign.
The Texas senator has repeatedly declined so far to endorse Trump, and his suggestion that supporting Trump was a "responsibility" does not bode well for Cruz eventually coming around. Yet he has largely muzzled himself from indulging in the savaging of Trump that animated him in the heat of the race.
"I'm going to stay out of the business of commenting on Donald Trump," when asked by radio host Ben Ferguson about racially charged threats against President Barack Obama posted by Trump's ex-butler.
That's not to say that Cruz is any less suspicious of Trump's conservative bona fides than he was before dropping out. His campaign team is still organizing its delegates to seize spots on the powerful rules and platforms committees, which could limit the presumptive nominee's ability to reshape the Republican Party or its primary process in his image.
And he has pointedly declined to release the more than 600 delegates he won across the country, sending letters to state parties this week that he would still require almost all of them to support him on the first ballot.
Cruz's aides, free from any need to play nice with fellow politicians, have been more willing to remind Cruz supporters that they've forgot nothing about Trump's political impurities.
"It's gonna get old saying we told you so," tweeted Brian Phillips, one Cruz aide, on Friday as he linked repeatedly to negative coverage of the GOP nominee. "This guy is going to be an October surprise a day for six months," tweeted Ron Nehring, another aide.
Also to blame, in the eyes of other Cruz officials: The other two final Cruz alternatives, who refused to bow out of the race and consolidate the anti-Trump vote. And Cruz hands are working to ensure that history doesn't spare them ignominy of having paved the way for Trump to become the nominee.
Top Cruz officials told CNN last week that Rubio shouldered some of the blame for not stopping Trump. Had he joined Cruz as part of a "unity ticket" in early March, Cruz's team shared, then a Cruz-Rubio tandem would've romped over Trump. But the Florida senator -- a possible 2020 rival -- declined.
Then there's Kasich, the Ohio governor who Cruz repeatedly pilloried for declining to drop out of the GOP race even though he had the narrowest of paths to the nomination.
"From the beginning of this campaign, I always said that when this race got to a head-to-head matchup, Ted would emerge victorious," campaign manager Jeff Roe wrote to Cruz supporters last Friday three days after the race ended. "Due to some candidates remaining in the race -- long after it became clear they had no viable path to victory -- that one-on-one matchup never materialized."
Those supporters remain today emotional, even as they themselves also struggle to put the campaign 100% behind them.
At Cruz's booth at the state convention in Dallas, dozens of Sharpied thank-you notes were pinned to a clothesline forming his table's perimeter.
"I haven't given up yet. You are everything I have wanted for a real president," read one.
Another Cruz supporter was even less eager to leave Cruz's White House hopes in the past.
"There will be a Draft Ted Cruz for V.P. At the Nat. Con," one person, Bill Eastland, wrote in red marker. "If it succeeds, please accept. If I become a delegate, I will push it."