HOUSTON, TEXAS — Decked out in cowboy hats, American flag jackets, and various Cruz-adorned swag, the men and women at Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) final rally before the Super Tuesday had a message for Donald Trump: Not you. Never you.
In interviews with ThinkProgress, several attendees at the Texas Senator’s rally in Houston said they were officially joining the #NeverTrump movement, a Twitter-led push for Republicans to oppose billionaire Trump if he wins the nomination. The campaign gained momentum after Thursday night’s CNN Republican presidential debate, eventually becoming the top trend on Twitter worldwide on Friday night.
I’m a Republican, but if Donald Trump wins the election, then the party’s left me.
“He has no business being in charge of our country,” said Jason Siebold, 44, a Houston resident for the last 12 years. Wearing a Cruz T-shirt designed by the street artist who famously created posters depicting former Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis as “abortion barbie,” Siebold said he’d sooner vote for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton than Trump.
“Quite honestly, I would probably vote for Hillary Clinton before I would vote for Donald Trump, because I think Donald Trump is going to destroy the Republican party,” he said. “I’m a Republican, but if Donald Trump wins the election, then the party’s left me. I haven’t left the party. At that point, I’m no longer going to be a Republican.”
Trump’s brash rhetoric, he said, was also a factor. “I don’t want my president to think it’s ok for him to stand on the stage and say ‘pussy,’” he said, referring to the infamous incident when Trump indirectly called Cruz the p-word. “That’s not who I want my son to grow up idolizing.”
This guy's shirt though. pic.twitter.com/dyR769gFHq
— Emily Atkin (@emorwee) March 1, 2016
Siebold wasn’t the only one aboard the #NeverTrump train. About a hundred feet away from him, four women stood together in matching red, white, and blue hockey jerseys with Cruz’s name — and the number 45, representing the 45th president — scrawled across the back. The women said they volunteered for Cruz in Iowa, and were excited to cast votes for Cruz in their home state of Texas.
But if Trump became the nominee, they all said, they would either vote third-party or not at all.
“I am passionately Never Trump,” said Sue Stringer, who lives in Alvin, Texas. “A vote for Trump is a vote for Hillary. So why would I ever vote for him.”
I will not ever hold my nose and make a vote again.
Muriel Owens, also from Alvin, said she would also never vote for Trump — but only because she was tired of voting for a Republican presidential nominee she doesn’t really agree with.
“I will not ever hold my nose and make a vote again,” Owens said, referring to her vote for Mitt Romney is 2012.
While Cruz’s hometown supporters are probably not quite scientifically indicative of Cruz’s base in general, there is some evidence that supporters of Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) are less likely to jump to Trump if their preferred candidate drops out. If Rubio or Cruz dropped out, according to a recent NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll, voters would be more likely to move to the remaining Senator than they would Trump.
Trump, however, sees things a bit differently.
When Ted Cruz quits the race and the field begins to clear, I will get most of his votes – no problem!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 24, 2016
If Trump does wind up being the nominee, there is one prominent Ted Cruz supporter who would give in and back the billionaire: Ted Cruz. On Sunday, Cruz said he thinks a Donald Trump presidency would be “a grave mistake.” But, he said, he would support him anyway.