Cruz speech: Did he shoot himself in the foot?

SMU experts are available for interview on all things related to the current state of the presidential race.

DALLAS (SMU)SMU experts are available for interview on all things related to the current state of the presidential race. Additional convention experts are available here.



A CNN focus group of undecided voters organized by Kirk and a team of SMU students had strong opinions on Ted Cruz’s convention speech, in which he didn’t endorse or say he’d vote for Donald Trump.

Spoiler alert: They didn’t like it.

“There was a lot of anger among them toward Cruz for not supporting or endorsing Trump,” Kirk says. “They thought his speech was inspired, but he didn’t close it with an endorsement, so the news all evening was about Ted Cruz. What could have been a moment to tee up a future election bid with these voters backfired.”

Kirk says 10 percent of undecided voters make up their minds on who they’ll vote for during the national conventions, making these two weeks vastly important. The good news for Trump is that when voters weren’t talking about Cruz, they had good things to say about vice presidential pick Mike Pence, which was good news for Trump.

“Nobody really knew Pence before last night’s speech, and the reactions people had to him is they thought he was sincere, maybe the most-sincere speaker they’d heard,” Kirk says. “They loved the fact he used humor. That he was family man. They came away feeling better than they did before about Trump because they felt he made a strong choice for his running mate.”

Kirk is SMU professor of communication studies and director of the Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility. She can discuss:

  • sound bite substance
  • undecided voters
  • presidential debates
  • the use of second screens and social media in politics
  • political communications


Wilson says the third night of the Republican National Convention went swimmingly, except for that moment it went off the tracks.

“Everything other than the Cruz speech went well last night – but other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” Wilson says. “The Cruz theatrics became the story and overshadowed everything else that was really quite good. Far and away the most important thing that happens this week is Trump’s speech tonight. That will be the lasting impression and message from this convention, whatever Trump says.”

The state of the campaign could go from bad to worse if Trump picks up where he left off in a New York Times interview Wednesday night. In the interview, he said he might not defend NATO allies if they’re attacked by Russia.

“It is the kind of forehead-slapping recklessness that has characterized the Trump campaign throughout,” Wilson says. “One of the standard Republican attacks with a lot of validity is that Barack Obama has created uncertainty among our allies about how committed we are to them, but if you make that criticism, you can’t turn around and say, ‘We may or may not defend or NATO allies.’”

“It’s the kind of uncertainty that, projected into world affairs, can be very destabilizing,” Wilson adds. “So that is problematic.”

Honing back in on last night’s Cruz speech, Wilson says the person it likely hurt most is Cruz himself.

“There will be a bit of sympathy and rallying to Trump among conservatives because of Cruz’s speech,” Wilson says. “On the other hand, it does give the impression to people outside the party that these guys don’t have their act together, this party is in chaos, and that’s obviously not a positive image going forward.”

“Cruz did himself a lot of harm,” Wilson adds.

Wilson is an SMU associate professor of Political Science. He can discuss;                               

  • religion and politics
  • political psychology
  • voting behavior of religious voters
  • public opinion and politics