Whatever you think of Donald Trump, he fought his way to Cleveland in an improbable march that left the remains of some pretty potent opponents lying vanquished on a bloody primary battlefield.
On a morning when the national chatter should be about Rudy Giuliani’s blistering takedown of presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton or the tearful appearance by the mother of one of the Americans killed in the Benghazi attack or the powerful “blue lives matter” speech by Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, the internet and TV were on fire with talk of:
- Melania Trump’s engaging and well-delivered paean to her husband and American values – and how it was in part cribbed from Michelle Obama’s keynote address to the Democratic National Convention in 2008.
- The future of top Trump aide Paul Manafort, who pushed aside rival Corey Lewandowski to become the campaign’s chief strategist and who is now desperately trying to explain how he could have let his boss’s beloved wife make a stunning debut on the national stage and wake up to embarrassing charges of plagiarism.
- The raucous floor fight by a band of anti-Trump Republicans who were demanding a roll-call vote on rule changes that would have allowed delegates to vote “their conscience.” It wound up with the Colorado delegation walking out of the convention hall and with more GOP loyalists disaffected from their own party.
- The controversial remarks by Steve King, an Iowa congressman and Trump supporter, who in a TV panel discussion questioned the contributions to the country by non-whites.
More than anything else, though, the public shaming of Melania Trump after what at first seemed a star turn will cast a pall over the convention.
On MSNBC last night, Republican strategist Steve Schmidt said the first evening of the convention had been turned into a catastrophe and called the speech “an outrageous disservice to Melania Trump” that has brought scandal to a potential first lady.
One of the problems, Schmidt said, is that the Trump operation is not “configured like a normal campaign.” James Hohmann of The Washington Post calls Plagergate “the kind of rookie mistake that a serious congressional campaign would never make.”
But it’s not just those running the campaign who seem to be clueless clowns. During the distraught remarks of Patricia Smith, whose son Sean was killed when Islamic militants attacked a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Trump called into The O’Reilly Factor on Fox to plug Melania’s upcoming speech. Fox preempted Smith, thus preventing its Republican viewers from hearing the assault on Clinton by a wounded mother.
And since he was busy blabbing to Bill O’Reilly, it was clear Trump wasn’t listening either.
At this rate, you have to wonder whether there will actually be a Trump Bump after the convention – an uptick in the nominee’s poll numbers that is almost guaranteed after a political convention.
Trump has pulled more than one rabbit out of his populist hat in this election season. But now the question is whether the billionaire can work his old bombastic magic and turn this clunker of a convention into a Corvette.