HOUSTON — President Trump rallied support for his onetime foe Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) on Monday, burying a bitter, “nasty” feud with a man that he long referred to as “Lyin’ Ted” during the 2016 presidential primary campaign.
In a wide-ranging speech with the midterms only 15 days away, Trump also took aim at “globalists,” proclaimed himself a “nationalist,” claimed without evidence that undocumented immigrants are voting in large numbers and vastly inflated the crowd watching his remarks outside.
And Trump again touted a “10 percent tax cut for middle income families” that he insisted were coming “next week” — although lawmakers will not be in Washington to pass them and most of Capitol Hill have been flummoxed at his vow of a new round of tax cuts.
Taking the podium at the Toyota Center, Trump embraced Cruz, whom he called “a man who has become a really good friend of mine,” and jokingly made reference to their bitter war of words two years ago.
“We had our little difficulties. But, actually, if you remember in the beginning, it was a love fest,” said Trump of Cruz, who famously refused to endorse him at the Republican National Convention in 2016. “Then it got nasty. And then it ended, and I’ll tell you what: Nobody has helped me more.”
Cruz, speaking before Trump, hailed the president as “a man who has presided over record jobs, record unemployment” and said he looks forward to hitting the campaign trail for his reelection campaign.
“In 2020, Donald Trump will be overwhelmingly reelected as president of the United States,” Cruz said, prompting a chorus of cheers from the crowd.
In remarks before he left Washington for Texas, Trump said he had come up with a new nickname for Cruz: “He’s not Lyin’ Ted anymore. He’s Beautiful Ted. I call him Texas Ted.”
Trump and Cruz memorably exchanged some sharp — and personal — barbs during their 2016 White House battle. Trump’s favorite nickname for Cruz was “Lyin’ Ted,” a moniker that Cruz’s Democratic opponent, Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Tex.), recently borrowed to mock Cruz during a Senate debate.
Trump had also ridiculed Cruz’s wife, Heidi, during the 2016 campaign and promoted a conspiracy theory that Cruz’s father was connected to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Cruz, for his part, has called Trump a “sniveling coward” and a “pathological liar.” After declining to endorse Trump during the Republican National Convention, he changed course in September 2016 and begrudgingly offered his support.
On Monday night, it was all water under the bridge as Trump and Cruz appeared together onstage.
After Cruz introduced him, Trump took his time making his way down the aisle, stopping every few steps to wave and shake hands with supporters, who greeted him with deafening cheers while Cruz looked on and applauded.
When Trump finally reached the stage, he and Cruz shook hands, gave each other a hearty pat on the back and exchanged a few friendly words, then shared another embrace before Trump took the podium.
In 76-minute remarks that hit all his trademark campaign themes — among them immigration, trade and jabs at the media — Trump took aim at “globalists” and declared that his “America First” policy means “we’re putting ourselves first for a change.”
“A globalist is a person that wants the globe to do well, frankly not caring about our country so much,” Trump said. “We can’t have that.”
To cheer from the crowd, Trump added: “You know what I am? I’m a nationalist.”
Trump raised the specter of voter fraud, claiming without evidence that illegal immigrants are voting in large numbers in the November election.
“The illegals . . . they vote anyway, and they’re not supposed to,” Trump said. “We’ve got so many people voting illegally in this country, it’s a disgrace.”
The president also claimed that “50,000 people” were watching his remarks outside the arena on screens put out by the campaign — a figure far higher than statistics from Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who tweeted that about 18,000 to 19,000 people were inside the at-capacity Toyota Center, and about 3,000 were watching outside.
Inside the arena, the crowd was raucous and loud, waving campaign signs and cheering loudly for Trump and the Republican speakers who preceded him. The box seats in the arena weren’t filled, although there was a crowd on the floor surrounding the stage where the president spoke.
Targeting his frequent adversaries, Trump mocked Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — “I can no longer call her Pocahontas because she has no Indian blood” — and name-checked House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) to warn against a Democratic-controlled Congress.
“To protect your state and your country, you need to elect a Republican House and a Republican Senate,” Trump said. “And you need to vote for Ted Cruz.”
In his remarks earlier Monday at the White House, Trump acknowledged that he and Cruz had a “very, very nasty and tough campaign,” but he said they have “worked together very closely” since then.
“I like him a lot. I actually like him a lot, and he’s a very smart guy. He loves the people of Texas,” Trump said.
The president also said he believes O’Rourke is “highly overrated.”
The Democrat drew a crowd of 55,000 people at a rally in Austin with country music star Willie Nelson last month and pulled in a staggering $38.1 million during the third fundraising quarter, more than three times Cruz’s total of $12 million during the same period.
“What I heard about him, I figured he must be something a little special. He’s not,” Trump said, adding that O’Rourke “got beaten badly” in his debates against Cruz.
Trump visited Cruz’s home city to boost momentum for his onetime foe on the first day of early voting in Texas.
The Monday evening rally was moved to the Toyota Center in downtown Houston after organizers said ticket requests swamped the seating capacity at NRG Arena, the initial venue. A Trump campaign spokesman said the smaller NRG Arena, which accommodates fewer than 10,000 people, was the only facility they could secure in time.
“Due to unprecedented demand for tickets, we continued to push for and negotiate terms for the larger capacity provided to us at the Toyota Center,” the spokesman said. But a Toyota Center official told the Dallas Morning News that Trump aides reached out just a few hours before the president’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, tweeted that the rally location had been moved to the Toyota Center, home of the Houston Rockets, which seats more than 18,000 people.
Both venues are a far cry from Trump’s promise earlier this year to campaign for Cruz in “the biggest stadium in Texas we can find.”
Sonmez reported from Washington.