Nomination in hand, Donald Trump’s campaign charged ahead Wednesday with a convention-week mission to redefine the party’s celebrity leader as a serious-minded family man. It’s a project proving harder than uniting skeptical Republicans behind their distaste for another brand they know well: The Clintons.
Trump, the real estate mogul and reality television star, secured the GOP mantle Tuesday night in a roll call vote that officially brought the outsider into the heart of American politics. The tallying of the votes was followed by a display of Trump’s two-track persuasion effort: Testimonials vouching for his character — delivered by his family — and searing indictments of Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s character — delivered by the rest of the party.
Trump adviser Paul Manafort acknowledged both elements Wednesday, noting the campaign is “trying to show other parts of his personality.”
“We feel the America people don’t know all of Donald Trump,” he said on ABC‘s Good Morning America.
Portraits of the softer side of Trump, however, have been fleeting moments in a convention with a clear, hard edge. Republicans have shown a visceral reaction to a possible second Clinton presidency and have sought to capitalise on that emotion. Outside the convention hall, vendors are selling lewd T-shirts and buttons mocking her. Inside, delegates have repeatedly broken out in chants of “Lock her up!” and cheered on speakers who labelled her a liar.
The Trump campaign has tried to gloss over the rough treatment. Manafort on Wednesday called it merely an “undertone” of the event and stood by the assertion that Clinton should be in jail. Some Republicans believe firmly Clinton should be prosecuted for mishandling classified material during her time as secretary of state, Manafort said.
The rebranding effort continues on Day 3. Eric Trump, the candidate’s 32-year-old son and a close adviser, is to deliver a speech aimed at answering what motivates his father to leave a life of luxury resorts and golf for the gritty work of politics: “Why is my father doing it? Why does he care this much? Why now?” he said.
Wednesday’s programme also will bring two conservative stalwarts to the stage: Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a favorite of evangelicals; and the nominee’s most tenacious challenger in the primaries, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the man Trump used to call “Lyin’ Ted.”
Pence is heartily on board the Trump bandwagon; Cruz isn’t yet, nor are many of his supporters in Cleveland. The senator’s scheduled primetime address will be keenly watched as a measure of whether a desire to beat Clinton can heal even the deepest wounds.
There are signs the answer is: not quite. Cruz isn’t expected to offer a full-throated endorsement of Trump, but will at least “suggest” that he is backing Trump’s candidacy for president, Manafort said.
Cruz’s hedging could provide a reminder of how Trump’s polarising, unpredictable bid for the nomination has alienated Republicans both on the right and in the center.
The divide has spilled over into the convention, which has been dominated by a thwarted attempt to block Trump’s nomination and talk of Melania Trump’s partial use of a Michelle Obama speech.
Both episodes raised questions about his oversight of his campaign, which gives voters a window into how a candidate might handle the pressures of the presidency.
Tuesday night’s lineup appeared to be course correction. Speaker after speaker stepped forward to denounce Clinton, none to greater effect with the crowd than New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
The governor, a dropout in the GOP presidential race who ended up on the short list for Trump’s running mate, energised the hall as he ticked through numerous accusations of wrongdoing against Clinton and implored delegates to shout “guilty.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the crowd scandal follows Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton “like flies.”
Two of Trump’s children testified to his character. “For my father, impossible is just the starting point,” said Donald Trump Jr., eldest of the nominee’s five children. Tiffany Trump, 22, said her dad is a “natural-born encourager” and she recalled the notes he wrote on her report cards.
Delegates have had mixed reactions to the offerings. Iowa delegate Cecil Stinemetz said he continues to believe Trump is “the worst nominee that we have put forward for the Republican Party in the history of the Republican Party.”
Kentucky delegate George Barnett said the choice was clear: “The bottom line here is we need to get rid of Hillary. We don’t need her in the White House,” he said,