Defiant Cruz drives home new attack on Republican Trump

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CLEVELAND U.S. Senator Ted Cruz on Thursday staunchly defended his decision not to endorse Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, in a damaging rift at the party’s convention ahead of the Nov. 8 election.

Cruz, who came in second to Trump in the race for the Republican nomination after a bitter and personal campaign, was booed by delegates at the gathering in Cleveland on Wednesday night when he gave a speech but did not endorse Trump.

The conservative senator from Texas stood his ground on Thursday. He refused to say whether he would vote for Trump, who dubbed him a liar and attacked his father and wife during the primary campaign, although he did say he would not vote for the Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.

“I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father,” Cruz told a meeting of the Texas delegation in Cleveland.

“What I wanted to do last night was lay out the principles I believe we should stand for as Republicans,” Cruz said.

The fight was the latest misstep at the four-day party meeting, which was meant to be an occasion showing Republicans rallying behind Trump, an New York businessman who has never been elected to public office but who saw off 16 rivals in the primary contests.

The convention began on Monday but the highlight of the first day, a speech by Trump’s wife, Melania, became a controversial talking point because it used some lines that were similar to passages in an address by first lady Michelle Obama in 2008.

Susan Hutchison, chair of the Washington delegation, said she confronted Cruz after his speech and called him a “traitor to the party.”

(Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Frances Kerry)