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GOP Latinos See Vulnerability for Cruz, Who Said He's Not 'Servile Puppy Dog'

Sen. Ted Cruz's attempt to recover from his refusal to endorse Trump seemed to fail and some Latinos say his political future is in jeopardy.
Image: Former Republican U.S. presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz speaks to delegates from Texas at the RNC
Former Republican U.S. presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz speaks to delegates from Texas at a breakfast during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron JosefczykAARON JOSEFCZYK / Reuters

CLEVELAND -- Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, one of only three Latinos in the Senate, failed Wednesday to bounce from his refusal to endorse Donald Trump at the convention, leaving many wondering if the Republican junior senator has put his 2018 political prospects in jeopardy.

His Tuesday night speech drew loud boos from Trump supporters as they realized he was not going to throw the backing behind the man who was scheduled to accept the GOP nomination for president Thursday night.

"I think this could make him vulnerable in Texas for his next senatorial election, who knows. A lot of people are talking," said Artemio "Temo" Muniz, head of the Texas Federation for Hispanic Republicans.

That view is of critical importance to Latinos and especially Latino Republicans who have two Hispanic senators in the U.S. Senate - Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who is in a tough re-election contest this year. The Democrats' lone Hispanic senator is Sen. Bob Menendez.

Meanwhile, Democrats have a couple of strong Latino prospects for Senate, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Loretta Sanchez of California.

At a breakfast with the Texas delegation Thursday morning, Cruz discussed his non-endorsement.

"I addressed the convention because Donald Trump asked me to. And when Donald Trump asked me to he didn’t ask me to endorse," Cruz told the Texas delegates Wednesday morning. "And indeed three days ago, I talked to him on the phone and told him I’m not going to endorse him."

Cruz demonstrated some of the stick-to-itiveness that he has shown in Congress and led him to filibuster the Senate and shut down the federal government.

An attendee asked whether he would vote for Trump in the fall and Cruz responded: "I am doing what millions of Americans are doing. I am watching and I am listening and as I told you last night the standard that I intend to apply is which candidate I trust to defend our freedom and be faithful to the constitution. I can tell you, I’m not voting for Hillary," said Cruz.

Pressed by the Texas delegates, he reminded them that Trump had said his father was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy and disparaged his wife, adding he "wouldn't be a servile puppy dog." He said he wasn't eager to come to a convention and support Trump when Trump had not taken back anything said about his family, but that he was obliged to speak.

The responses left some of his supporters unsatisfied.

"I am disappointed. I believe that my junior senator really had to think that we need to overlook a certain percent of our grievances. I love Ted Cruz's father. Rafael is one of my dear friends. I didn't like what Trump said about him," said Adryana Boyne, a Cruz delegate from Texas who has been public about her own disagreements with Trump in the past. "But this is not the time to look at those things. This is not the time to look at those things because I'm concerned about national security. I am concerned about Supreme Court and the Johnson amendment. I am concerned about growing the economy, jobs."

Time may cool down Texas tempers. Polling from the Texas Politics project sponsored by the University of Texas and Texas Tribune show Cruz entering the convention with a 75 percent favorability rating among Republicans and over 90 percent favorability among Tea Party identifiers.

The crucial question is whether Trump reaches the presidency. If he does, then Cruz not only has hurt his own presidential chances, but his current job security.

Cruz may have won the Texas primary but Trump came a close second. There is love for Trump in Texas.

If Democrats hold on to the White House then Cruz's failed last stand may have been a battle loss and will allow him to go on and win the political war.

NBC Latino senior writer and political editor Suzanne Gamboa contributed to this report.

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