Ted Cruz says he doesn't want a contested convention

Republican presidential candidate and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz joins CBS' "Face the Nation" in an interview airing March 6, 2016.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz downplayed talk of a contested Republican convention, saying in an interview airing Sunday that GOP front-runner Donald Trump needs to be defeated on the ballot rather than in Cleveland next summer.

"If you want to beat him, you have to beat him at the ballot box," Cruz said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

"Any time you hear people talking about a brokered convention, I think that is the fevered talk of the Washington establishment," he continued. "The Washington establishment is in a panic. They're confused. They don't understand what's happening."

Cruz, fresh off victories in Kansas and Maine Saturday night, said there's a difference between a movement against Trump led by the people, and an "illegitimate" movement to choose the nominee by the Republican establishment in Washington that would cause a "manifest uprising" against them in response.

"There's a difference there when that's coming from the people, when it's a battle of the people. A lot of the folks pushing a brokered convention in Washington don't want it to be based on the people," he said. "They want to drop in their favorite candidate and try to stifle the will of the people. I think that would be an enormous mistake."

Cruz said no one could have expected Trump to rise as high as he has.

"Donald Trump is unique and one of a kind. A year ago, no one anticipated Donald Trump," he said. "And he's changed the rules."

Asked by moderator John Dickerson whether he's had any conversations about creating an alliance to stop Trump, Cruz said supporters of other candidates are coming his way.

"Oh listen, I'm having conversations with all sorts of people," he said. "And what we're seeing is we're seeing supporters from other candidates coming and joining us whether they were with Jeb Bush, whether they were with Chris Christie, whether they were with Ben Carson, whether they'd been with Marco Rubio or Rand Paul."

Cruz also accused the media of not being tough enough on Trump, saying they're giving him a free pass and free media on some issues because they want him to be the GOP nominee and lose to Democrat Hillary Clinton in November.

"I can't tell you how many media outlets I hear, you know, have this great exposé on Donald, on different aspects of his business dealings or his past but they said, 'You know what? We're going to hold it to June or July,'" Cruz said. (Asked which news organizations he was referencing, Cruz said, "I'm not going to out media outlets.")

The Texas senator also said he's not going to join in on the kinds of insults and inflammatory statements Trump has become known for on the campaign trail.

"I'm not going to engage in the insults. I'm not going to throw the mud," he said. "I don't really have any views on the size of any parts of Donald Trump's anatomy. And I'm not interested in talking about that."

As for Trump's position on immigration, which he indicated there was some flexibility on during Thursday night's Republican debate, Cruz said the front-runner's shift on the issue is "stunning."

"Donald is already running to the left and he's not even out of the primary," he said. "I mean, in the debate this week, Donald stood up there and said to Marco Rubio, 'I agree with you, Marco. I understand why you compromise and were flexible negotiating with Chuck Schumer on the Gang of Eight.' Now, this is the Donald Trump who has made immigration the centerpiece of his campaign, who said he agreed with Marco Rubio supporting the Gang of Eight amnesty bill. That was stunning."

In spite of his sharp criticism of Trump, though, Cruz says he'll stick by his promise to support the eventual Republican nominee because he's a man of his word.

"At the outset of this campaign, I promised I would support the Republican nominee," he said. "And I am someone who keeps his word."

  • Emily Schultheis

    Emily Schultheis is a reporter/editor for CBS News Digital.