Mission not really accomplished. It would be an error to evaluate the 2016 Republican convention in traditional terms. This is a most unusual presidential election, with both candidates being disliked by a majority of the public. After a historically watched primary season, the persona and general policies of the nominee are well known. Nevertheless, the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign guided by new manager Paul Manafort followed a traditional script:
Objective 1: Unify support within the party.
The Trump team tried, but came up short as a result of his many personal insults and because he departs so radically from traditional Republican policies on trade and foreign engagement. Ted Cruz' refusal to endorse reflected the last gasp of the #NeverTrump effort, and will haunt Cruz' future political ambitions, like Chris Cristie's embrace of Barack Obama during the Romney election left a major scar on party loyalists who believe in team play. The boycott by Establishment party leaders reflects the reality that donors will be in short supply going forward and Trump is reliant on a different constituency showing up in November - as they did in the primaries.
The selection of Mike Pence was refreshingly conservative, with his appeal to the religious wing of the party, the "Midwest governor" credential, experience in Washington, and "no drama" counterbalance to Trump. For disaffected Republicans seeking to rationalize a vote for Trump, he was a good choice.
Without reservation, Reince Priebus and the Republican National Committee are trying to fill the voids of Establishment support and Trump's lack of a campaign organization. To a much greater extent than normal, they provide the voter data base, the campaign field infrastructure, and donor access. Hillary will dominate the Wall Street and major corporate donors; Trump's success in the next few weeks with donors such as Sheldon Adelson will be telling.
Objective 2: Expand the candidate's appeal
Part 1 - Soften the image. The family were the heroes of the convention (and the future campaign) - beautiful; hard working; successful; unswervingly loyal to Dad; the "new Camelot". The appeal to the LGBTQ community was a surprise - and brought a more surprising cheer from the audience. Trump's charitable instincts and contributions were highlighted. His speech was nearly insult-free.
Part 2 - Explain Trump's management style. Trump needed to get beyond his general policy themes and his top-line business success to explain how he would operate as president. After eight years with President Obama's management failures - Fast and Furious, the roll-out of Obamacare, the IRS targeting of conservatives, the Veterans Administration fiasco, foreign policy ineptitude - and generations of politicians promising to remake government, it is refreshing to see somebody who understands project management, budgets, the reality of the workplace, and the importance of competence regardless of gender or ethnic background. The "blue collar billionaire". There were more than enough testimonials - his kids who are in the business, the manager of his winery and a hotel, the head of his Foundation, a real estate developer who has worked with Trump on many real estate deals. Case made.
Part 3 - Clarify some problematic policy positions - because they have either been poorly stated or improperly reported. The ban on Muslim immigrants relates to countries which are in turmoil and where they cannot be properly vetted. The focus of dealing with illegal immigrants is those who have committed crimes - and there are many examples of egregious leniency by the Obama administration. His positions on education choice, support for police, and jobs for Americans should appeal to inner city voters if they will listen.
Part 4 - Reach out to Bernie voters - other than Trump's references to the corrupt system, there was little to offer.
Objective 3: Vilify the opposition
This will be the most negative presidential campaign in our lifetimes. Throughout the convention, any reference to Hillary brought a chant of "lock her up". The antipathy will bring most Republicans to vote Trump, plus precinct walkers, phone bankers, and small donors, but the real need is to move the independent voters who will be subjected to an equal and opposite diatribe at next week's Democratic convention.
As he did in the debates, Chris Cristie reflected his understanding that the real audience is not those chanting in the auditorium, but those sitting on couches across America. The prosecutor's classic take-down of Hillary Clinton for her foreign policy blunders and her placing of her own secrecy above the national security interests needs to be seen by every voter. Unfiltered; no extra comments needed. This is the key to the election. It makes it crystal clear that Hillary was a massive failure as Secretary of State. It puts her e-mail crimes in a proper context.
Here is the speech.
Watch it again. Send it on to everybody on your e-mail list. Post it on Facebook.
Like Trump's acceptance speech, the convention was a bit too long. The true believers had a good (and remarkably safe) party. In this year's most unusual presidential election, it was helpful, but not too much.
This week's video is Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke's convention "Blue Lives Matter" speech.
bill bowen - 7/22/16