Ted Cruz was given a speaking spot at the convention. But he didn’t use it to endorse Trump.

CLEVELAND ― Over the course of the week at the Republican National Convention, one of the more entertaining side shows has been the battle among Republican elites to position themselves for the 2020 election. The assumption that Donald Trump is likely to lose this November is so widespread that much of the jockeying isn’t discreet.

No politician has been on the receiving end of more of that 2020 chatter ― facilitated, in part, by his top adviser ― than Ted Cruz. The Texas senator is naturally positioned to emerge from the wake of a Trump electoral defeat. He won the second most delegates during the 2016 primary, and as the most high-profile conservative in the party, he gives GOP voters a chance to move on from a Trump loss without moving ideologically to the middle.

In his speech before the convention on Wednesday night, Cruz fed the chatter by notably not including an endorsement of Trump. He gave Trump a perfunctory congratulations for winning the nomination. But after that line, Abraham Lincoln received more mentions in his speech (one).

Paul Manafort, the chairman of the Trump campaign, said earlier in the night that Cruz was suggesting an endorsement with his speech. And there are certainly ways to read that.

“We deserve an immigration system that puts America first. And yes, builds a wall to keep us safe,” said Cruz.

“And to those listening, please, don’t stay home in November,” he said at another point. “Stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.”

But if Cruz’s campaign proved anything, it’s that he is acutely attentive to detail. He reportedly wrote the speech himself.

He didn’t give an explicit endorsement for a reason. Part of it, naturally, is that the Trump campaign treated him like hell during the primary, mocking his wife, suggesting he had engaged in multiple affairs, and saying his father hobnobbed with Lee Harvey Oswald. But part of it is also because he wants to emerge as the candidate regretful Republicans turn to after the fall.

“We’re fighting, not for one particular candidate or one campaign,” he said in his speech’s most telling line, “but because each of us wants to be able to tell our kids and grandkids … that we did our best for their future, and for our country.”

Many of Cruz’s supporters in the Quicken Loans Arena Wednesday night weren’t too disappointed that the senator didn’t endorse.

“Gotta give the guy credit. That’s stand-up. I’ve got to give him credit for his integrity to hold up and hold his own chops,” said a Wyoming delegate who said he was originally bound to Cruz. “At the same time, I know that he’s a good Republican and he’s going to back the Republican Party. And I’ve got to say, he’s not alone in this. He is by far from being alone.”

Bill Eastland, a Texas delegate who originally supported Cruz and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), said he still doesn’t believe a word coming out of Trump’s mouth but will likely support the ticket because he is, in his words, a “Republican Party hack.”

“If I were Ted Cruz,” Eastland said, “I would urge the crowd to support the ticket and to turn out the vote. And if they feel comfortable, voting for Donald Trump. Because that’s exactly where I am.”