Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump spoke to Mark Halperin, a host of The Circus, about his reflections on the Republican National Convention that ended Thursday in Cleveland, including the controversy surrounding the speech delivered by his rival, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
“In retrospect, I wish I would have waited another minute. Because he was being booed right off the stage,” Trump said aboard his private jetliner Friday heading back to New York City with Halperin, who hosts Showtime’s The Circus with John Heilemann and Mark Mckinnon.
Cruz, like other candidates who ran against Trump, was offered a speaking slot at the convention, but the Texas senator was the only speaker who did not endorse the Republican nominee. Cruz accepted the invitation for a 10-minute slot Wednesday before Indiana Gov. Mike Pence accepted the party’s vice presidential nomination.
The invitation came with no strings, other than that the Trump campaign got to look at the speech ahead of its delivery. But the speech did not sit well with delegates.
First, there was the natural irritation on the convention floor with Cruz’s drawn-out, slow-walk delivery. Second, delegates, themselves astute political animals, picked up on a pattern in which every time Cruz seemed to be winding up to say something nice about Trump — let alone endorse him — he would instead endorse “Freedom.” Cruz’s bait-and-switch rhetorical game fit into the final problem, which was that Cruz was not tracking the fact that over the first three days of the convention, the delegates had bonded with Trump.
While Cruz was huddled with his staffers, consultants, funders and other courtiers, the convention had been doing its job, slowly and in fits, but nonetheless, the delegates listening to Cruz and enduring his smirks on the Jumbotron did not understand why he was there wasting their time, if he wasn’t going to join them in electing Trump.
It was a point Trump made to Halperin: “There’s great unity in the Republican Party, and people don’t know it.”
The boos and chants for Cruz to endorse Trump may have started in front with the New York delegation, which Cruz broke off from his speech to taunt, but it was heard all over the hall.
Halperin talked to the New York City developer about that moment he walked into his viewing box overlooking the arena as the booing and chants were reaching a crescendo.
“I walked in and the arena went crazy,” Trump said. “Life in politics may be over because people are so angry with him.”
Trump said he saved Cruz from further embarrassment as the delegates were turning on him live on national television. “Had I not walked in, I think that audience would have ripped him off the stage. I think I did him a big favor.”
The nominee said he debated with himself whether or not to allow Cruz to deliver his speech at all after he read it earlier Wednesday. “When I first read it, I said you know what, first of all, it’s not a very good speech. It’s not very exciting. Second of all, let’s throw him out.”
Taking away Cruz’s slot would have become the story, he said: “I said, you know, that’ll be a bigger deal if we throw him out than if he reads it and doesn’t endorse; what difference does it make?”
Cruz made a mistake, Trump asserted.
“His endorsement means nothing. But had he endorsed me, it would have been a good thing for him politically. By not endorsing, in my opinion, I think he hurt himself,” he said.
Trump spoke on other topics during the wide-ranging interview. The Republican nominee said it was “too bad” that his friend Roger Ailes was ousted from the helm of Fox News and that after the flap over his wife Melania’s convention speech, he made sure his own speech was scrubbed for possible similarities to other speeches.
As for the release of Trump’s tax returns, which the candidate said were still tied up with an IRS audit, Trump said he still could be make them public before the election.