Ted Cruz’s 2016 Ploys to Foil Trump Repeatedly Fell Flat

  • Ted Cruz and Donald Trump haven't always been as chummy as they are now.
  • A bungled handshake during the 2016 campaigns marred Cruz's initial attempt to subvert Trump.
  • Trump later worked up the crowd at the Republican National Convention, generating boos for Cruz.

Ted Cruz's road to ruin in the 2016 GOP presidential race was littered with missteps, including a poorly choreographed self-own and a prime time ambush by then-rival Donald Trump during a key Republican gathering.  

Cruz relived the jarring experiences as part of Insider's exhaustive oral history of Trump's takeover of the Republican party, breaking down the most iconic events during a series of interviews on Capitol Hill. 

The Republican senator from Texas survived the brutal multi-candidate debates and managed to string together some early primary wins. But by spring 2016 he was scrambling to derail Trump's seemingly unstoppable campaign. 

Read more: The definitive oral history of how Trump took over the GOP, as told to us by Cruz, Rubio, and 20 more insiders

His solution: an unprecedented attempt at naming fellow Republican contender Carly Fiorina his vice presidential running mate even though first-timer Trump was running away with the nomination. 

Cruz figured he and Fiorina could project a strong, principled, united front. 

Unless, of course, they did something crazy like bungle a simple handshake that will live on in the internet as a cringe-worthy gif. 

“We freaking practiced it, and they still screwed it up,” then-Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe said of the awkward moment Cruz and Fiorina got knotted up in Indianapolis while trying to join hands. 

Today Cruz laughs that off, describing the gaffe as something that “makes for an amusing video after the fact.” 

Things got rawer while recounting the time Trump, who'd clinched the GOP nomination, turned Republican National Convention attendees against him on July 20, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Cruz had prepared a “vote your conscience” speech he said was designed to unite conservatives – even though he hadn't yet endorsed Trump.  


“What I said in the speech is vote for candidates who you trust to defend freedom and to defend the Constitution,” Cruz told Insider. “And that is very much what I hoped Donald Trump would do. At the time I didn't know if he would or not. There were reasons to have concerns. I did have concern.”

Rick Gates, Trump's then-deputy campaign manager, told Insider Cruz was given the greenlight to say his piece. Trump, meanwhile, had instructed the crowd to let Cruz have it. 

“I just remember how loud the boos were,” former Cruz aide Amanda Carpenter said of the hostile reception Trump had orchestrated. 

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