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In a convention that was filled with chaos and controversy, from Melania Trump’s alleged plagiarism of Michelle Obama to Chris Christie’s “indictment” of Hillary Clinton, one thing stood out in arguably the most stunning political conventions in history – Ted Cruz. The Texas senator congratulated Donald Trump for winning the nomination in the beginning of his speech, but for the next 20 minutes of his speech, he never mentioned Trump again. Despite calls of “Trump!” and “We Want Trump!” from the crowd, Cruz refused to endorse Trump, instead calling for the delegates to “vote your conscience.”

While Cruz was booed off the stage, he earned the respect of many people watching from home. From the perspective of anti-Trump Democrats and Republicans alike, Cruz stood by his principles that he laid down earlier in the primary season. And given how more traditional, establishment Republicans like Christie, Scott Walker, and Mike Pence have given pro-Trump speeches, it was indeed refreshing to see someone take to the convention floor and give a speech implying that Trump was not the right leader to unite the country.

Yet Cruz didn’t just refuse to support Trump because of political differences – Trump was a man who attacked Cruz’s wife, attempted to link Cruz’s father to the JFK assassination, and tried to further the story that Cruz was having an affair. So, while many people were surprised that Cruz refused to throw his support at Trump, it would have been even more startling had Cruz gone the way of fellow Republicans like Ben Carson (whom Trump had called a child molester!) and endorsed Trump instead.

And the refusal to endorse Trump wasn’t entirely because of Cruz standing beside his wife and family. Cruz is still a politician above all else, and while he may have garnered a few boos on the convention stage, not endorsing Trump was a politically smart move. Clinton is heavily favored to win the election, and there’s going to be a lot of anger on the side of the GOP, perhaps even more anger than there is now. Hillary Clinton is likely the most hated individual of the Republican base, more so than President Obama, and Cruz will be able to tap into that anger. By positioning himself now as a true ideological conservative, he can take advantage of the political scene in 2020 and easily capture the Republican nomination. The stunt Cruz pulled at the RNC was all about Cruz, nothing else.

[Photo credit: Gage Skidmore]