CLEVELAND: Donald Trump will need to deliver the speech of his life yesterday, outlining his vision for America and seeking to salvage a fractious Republican convention after his chief rival declined to endorse him in his run for the presidency. The most controversial US presidential contender in modern times will accept the nomination of a Republican Party set up to abolish slavery and which has guided more candidates to the Oval Office than any other.
Nationwide polls put the New York billionaire, who has never held elected office, and Hillary Clinton neck and neck with the former secretary of state heavily criticized over an email scandal. The four-day Republican convention in Cleveland, which braced for mass and potentially violent protests, has so far passed off with little more than scuffles and a handful of arrests in the streets outside. But inside the halls, the convention itself has been anything but uneventful. Public spasms of disunity aside, there was the embarrassing revelation that a prime-time speech by Trump’s wife Melania had plagiarized remarks made by First Lady Michelle Obama.
When Trump takes center stage, watched by millions of Americans on prime-time television, he will need to prove that he is worthy of the White House and capable of being commander-in-chief. He will have to attempt to heal deep party divisions, laid bare late Wednesday when his chief rival was booed off stage, and somehow overcome concerns about the divisive campaign he has run so far, which has alienated minority voters, women, Muslims and Latino immigrants.
His campaign defied political norms-fueling racial tensions, offending key voting blocs, eschewing big-spending advertising campaigns and relying on media coverage above campaign structure. “Mr Trump’s speech will focus on his vision,” his campaign manager Paul Manafort told reporters yesterday, and “deal with current affairs such as the crisis facing cities and terrorism.”
In an interview with The New York Times, published Wednesday, Trump qualified normally sacrosanct support for NATO allies, warning it would depend “if they fulfill their commitments to us.” Trump’s roller-coaster campaign defeated 16 rivals and steamrolled stubborn party opposition after being written off as a joke. But he now faces the gargantuan task of trying to unify a party torn apart.
On Wednesday, the convention’s rapturous welcome for arch conservative Senator Ted Cruz turned into deafening boos after he provocatively told delegates to “vote your conscience” in November. Eric Trump, the nominee’s second son, told CBS television that he thought the speech was “classless.” “I’ve never seen boos like that, I never heard boos like that,” he said. “The whole auditorium was literally shaking with boos. I mean, how do you get booed out of your own convention? It was unbelievable.”
But Cruz was unrepentant, defending himself at a breakfast meeting with Republicans from his home state of Texas. “We’re not going to win this election by yelling and screaming and attacking people,” he said to applause. Trump and Cruz were at loggerheads on the campaign trail: Cruz complaining that Trump was not a proper conservative and about his allegedly liberal “New York values” while the tycoon savaged Cruz as “Lyin’ Ted” and posted a deeply unflattering photograph of his banker wife, Heidi.
“That pledge was not a blanket commitment that if you go and slander and attack Heidi, that I’m going to nonetheless come like a puppy dog and say thank you very much for maligning my wife,” said Cruz yesterday. But the Trump campaign has been quick to try to minimize Cruz’s disloyalty and exploit outrage in the hall to their advantage.
“The party is definitely more unified,” Manafort said. “A number of Cruz delegates… unprompted were coming up to us saying this wasn’t right… and they are supporting the Trump-Pence ticket.” It was left to Trump’s pick for vice president, the socially conservative Indiana Governor Mike Pence, to try to overcome the Cruz debacle in delivering a speech introducing himself to voters. He fed the crowd self-deprecating jokes and a clear conservative message, defending Trump as a man “who never quits, who never backs down” in a message given a standing ovation.
Yesterday, Trump’s daughter Ivanka will try to soften his brash public image. But the most unifying aspect of the convention has been savage assaults on Clinton, portraying her as a criminal and a liar who should be jailed, with cries of “lock her up, lock her up.” Clinton, who will formally accept the Democratic nomination at her own convention next week, is expected to steal the limelight on Friday or Saturday by announcing her vice presidential running mate. – AFP