Texas Republican leaders are meeting in Dallas Thursday for the state's GOP convention
The speakers aren't saying much about Trump, the party's presumptive nominee
As Texas Republicans gathered in Dallas Thursday for the state’s Republican convention, there was not much talk about the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump.
The Texas GOP leaders also called for unity within the Republican Party without naming Trump specifically.
While the real estate mogul was a thousand miles away in Washington huddling with GOP congressional leaders to unify the party around his White House bid, Texas Republicans largely left him unmentioned. But they did show support for Trump’s former Republican rival, Ted Cruz, the Texas senator who exited the presidential race last week. The Texas state party crowd exploded with cheers at mentions of Cruz.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott kicked off the convention with an appraisal of the 2016 presidential race to date. Abbott praised Cruz for his presidential bid, adding that the senator is a “true conservative” that deserves the “enduring respect” of Texan Republicans. Abbott endorsed Cruz for president and worked as a surrogate in Texas for Cruz during his campaign.
He also denounced democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, saying, “No seat should be filled by Hillary.”
Later in the morning, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who also endorsed Cruz for president, pitched the idea of him as a Supreme Court justice under a Republican president – the first time Trump was mentioned by name in a speech at the convention.
“He would have made a great president,” Patrick said of Cruz to cheers from the audience. “If Donald Trump wants to unite our party … I would like to see Ted Cruz on the Supreme Court.”
“We will not give up Texas to the Democrats,” Patrick said during his speech.
He later told reporters that the party needs to unify, adding that at the end of the day, all of the members of the Republican Party will support the nominee.
When Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush took the stage, he stayed out of the Republican 2016 primary altogether. He never mentioned Trump or his father, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a frequent target of Trump during the Republican primary season.
Instead, Bush opened his speech with a “special announcement.”
“And that is that eight months from now, President Obama will no longer be in office,” he said, later grouping President Barack Obama and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton together in critical statements.
Later Thursday night, Cruz’s father Rafael Cruz spoke to the delegates and directly mentioned the state of the 2016 election, saying his family had a hard week.
“Thank you for the outpouring of love we have received this week,” he told the delegates. “Conservatism is a movement that my son has invested the great majority of life in.”
Carly Fiorina continued the earlier message about party unity, but also didn’t mention Trump’s name and joked about endorsing during the 2016 election.
“I am ready to make a big announcement tonight. I’m endorsing for Senate in 2018, Ted Cruz,” Fiorina said to laughter and applause.
She added that the Republican Party needed to unify to make sure Clinton doesn’t take the White House.
“Let me begin by saying, Hillary Clinton cannot be the next president of the United States,” she said. “We are united in who we are against, but I think we need to be united by who we are and what we stand for.”
Trump was invited by Texas Sen. John Cornyn on Thursday after meeting with top Senate leaders in Washington, D.C. When Cornyn invited Trump to the convention, Trump appeared to consider it, but his staff quickly said no.
But at the convention, there were other, more direct, reminders of the ever-unpredictable presidential race. Cruz’s convention booths stood by the entrance. Trump’s booth, covered with Make America Great Again stickers and a Trump life-size poster, were located at the back of the room.
On Tuesday, Cruz told conservative talk show host Glenn Beck that he is not ruling out getting back into the race if a path to victory were to re-open.
“But listen, let’s be very clear … we launched this campaign intending to win. The reason we suspended the race last week is with Indiana’s loss, I didn’t see a viable path to victory. If that changes, we will certainly respond accordingly,” he said.
However, Cruz said he is planning to run for re-election for his Senate seat in 2018. He will speak at the convention Saturday.
CNN’s Tom LoBianco contributed to this report.