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Did Ted Cruz pledge to back the Republican nominee?

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz speaks during the third day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (TNS) Texas Sen. Ted Cruz speaks during the third day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (TNS)

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz speaks during the third day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (TNS)

Allison Graves
By Allison Graves July 21, 2016
Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman July 21, 2016

Ted Cruz drew boos during his speech on the third night of the Republican convention because he didn’t endorse Donald Trump.

Cruz barely mentioned Trump at all except to briefly congratulate him.

"I congratulate Donald Trump on winning the nomination last night," Cruz said.

He then offered a subtle dig to Trump by saying, "and to those listening, please, don’t stay home in November. if you love our country and love your children as much as I know you do, stand, and speak, and 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."

Cruz’s speech prompted calls from some in the crowd to "endorse Trump!" and criticism that he didn’t stick to a pledge to support the party nominee. Trump tweeted afterwards "Wow, Ted Cruz got booed off the stage, didn't honor the pledge!"

Here’s what we know about what Cruz said about party loyalty pledges during the 2016 pledge.

RNC pledge

All of the Republican candidates were supposed to sign a loyalty pledge by the Republican National Committee, we reported in an article about former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the pledge.

The pledge was intended to get Trump to commit to not run as a third-party candidate. At the first GOP debate on Aug. 6, Trump said he wouldn’t rule out a third-party run.

The pledge read:

"I (name) affirm that if I do not win the 2016 Republican nomination for president of the United States I will endorse the 2016 Republican presidential nominee regardless of who it is. I further pledge that I will not seek to run as an independent or write-in candidate nor will I seek or accept the nomination for president of any other party."

The one-page document included spots for signatures from RNC chairman Reince Priebus and the candidate. Trump held a press conference at Trump Tower in Manhattan on Sept. 3 to announce he had signed the pledge (which was mistakenly dated Aug. 3, although Trump later tweeted a corrected copy).

"I will be totally pledging my allegiance to the Republican Party and the conservative principles for which it stands," Trump said.

So did Cruz sign the pledge? We couldn’t find a copy of the pledge itself and didn’t hear back from spokespersons for Cruz or the RNC Wednesday night.

However, in May spokespersons for Trump’s campaign and the RNC told PolitiFact Florida that all of the GOP candidates signed a pledge.

Another pledge was put forward by the South Carolina Republican Party, which required candidates to sign a pledge and submit it with $40,000 by Sept. 30 to qualify for the state primary ballot in February. The pledge stated "I hereby affirm that I generally believe in and intend to support the nominees and platform of the Republican Party in the November 8, 2016, general election."

We didn’t find a signed pledge by Cruz online Wednesday night. However, state party officials announced on Sept. 30 that 15 candidates including Cruz had qualified for the state’s ballot.

Cruz wasn’t the only candidate to make conflicting comments about whether he would back the nominee.

On March 12, three days before the Florida primary, Cruz said he would support the nominee although he had criticized Trump saying that he "affirmatively encourages violence."

"I committed at the outset, I will support the Republican nominee, whoever it is." Cruz told reporters at a suburban St. Louis high school

A day later, he made a similar comment to MSNBC’s Chuck Todd:

Todd: "You've said some tough things on Trump. Why are you comfortable supporting him as the nominee if he ends up the nominee."

Cruz: "Well, listen, I pledged at the outset I will support the Republican nominee, whoever it is ... when I give my word for something, I follow through and do what I said."

But on March 30 at a CNN town hall, Cruz -- as well as Trump and Kasich -- appeared to back away from the pledge. That was shortly after Trump had promised to "spill the beans" on Cruz’s wife Heidi.

"I'm not in the habit of supporting someone who attacks my wife and my family," Cruz said.

When Cruz dropped out of the primary after losing the Indiana primary May 3, he made no mention of whether he would support the eventual nominee.

A week later, Cruz told conservative talk show host Glenn Beck that picking a presidential candidate "is not a choice that we as voters have to make today."

Was the pledge binding?

Experts previously told PolitiFact Florida in May that the pledge was essentially a promise by a candidate. But it’s not the same thing as a legal contract.

"The pledge is no more binding than any other politician's promise: It is enforceable through the public's future support or lack thereof for the person making the pledge," said Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California.

Emory University law professor Michael Kang said the oaths create political pressure but not much more. "I don’t think there are meaningful legal sanctions under these oaths for failing to do so at this point," he said.

Norman Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, noted in May that Trump said several times he would only adhere to the pledge if he were treated fairly, and that he would decide what that meant.

"Of course, Trump has a telling point here," Ornstein said. "The only reason the pledge was raised was to jawbone and bludgeon Trump into staying as a Republican. So there is plenty of hypocrisy on the part of other candidates. But this whole exercise, including Trump's outlandish notion that this is a question of honor, given his own past statements, makes them all look foolish."


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Did Ted Cruz pledge to back the Republican nominee?