U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz made his first public appearance Thursday on behalf of his party’s presidential ticket, speaking at length about the stakes of the election and trumpeting Mike Pence — but voicing no direct support for Donald Trump.
“We’re going to keep Republican control of the Senate and we’re going to defeat Hillary Clinton in this presidential election,” Cruz said at a Pence rally in Iowa, one of several moments where Cruz stopped far short of making an unambiguous pitch for Trump, his former bitter rival in the primaries.
Cruz’s relationship with the Trump-Pence ticket has been complicated, even after he finally backed the GOP nominee in September. Before that, Cruz withheld his support for months, including during a primetime speech at the Republican National Convention.
On Thursday, Cruz returned to the state where he first bested Trump in the nominating process, appearing with Pence, the Indiana governor who initially endorsed Cruz. At the Iowa rally, Cruz heaped praise on Pence, calling him “someone who today I call my friend and I very much look forward to calling Mr. Vice President.”
That was about as direct as Cruz’s remarks on the Trump-Pence team got. He otherwise spent most of his speech reiterating what he sees as critical issues in the election while exalting the need for Republicans in general to prevail Tuesday.
“If you care about the Constitution and Bill of Rights, if you care about free speech and religious liberty and the Second Amendment, then this election — putting a Republican in the White House and keeping a Republican Senate — is the whole enchilada,” Cruz said.
Cruz did lend his support to a proposal Trump has been pushing for weeks, calling for a “special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute the corruption of Hillary Clinton.” That set off chants of “Lock her up!” in the crowd.
Taking the stage after Cruz, Pence called the Texas senator a very good friend then pressed his case that the GOP is coalescing behind Trump in the home stretch. “Now this party is coming together,” Pence said.
Cruz was set to also join Pence at a rally later Thursday in Michigan.