Barring a last-minute jolt to the proceedings, Donald Trump is hours away from attaining the 2016 presidential nomination despite efforts to stop him that spilled messily into the opening of the Republican National Convention. As his wife, Melania, put it from the stage, “It would not be a Trump contest without excitement and drama.”
She generated a lot of buzz with her well-received speech and, later, a controversy over some of her remarks. Two passages of her address matched nearly word-for-word the speech that Michelle Obama delivered in 2008 at the Democratic National Convention.
Trump’s campaign responded in a statement that said her “immigrant experience and love for America shone through in her speech.” The statement didn’t mention Mrs. Obama.
For a time Monday, the Cleveland arena resembled the convention-floor battles of old as aggrieved anti-Trump Republicans protested the adoption by voice vote of rules aimed at quashing an already flailing effort to deny him the prize. Instead of a manicured message of unity, viewers saw the fractured face of a party still coming to grips with the polarizing man of the moment.
But to borrow the parlance of Trump the businessman, the deal will almost certainly be sealed Tuesday night.
That’s when the roll call of states is set to unfold, delivering the delegates to make him the standard-bearer after a rollicking primary season that saw him vanquish 16 rivals. Typically in both parties, the roll call is heavy with ceremonial flourishes, good cheer and puffery about the virtues of each state. This time, it’s also another opportunity for discord to be heard.
Trump appeared Monday night to introduce his wife, quickly stepping aside to let her speak. There was no hogging the stage as he did when introducing his running mate, Mike Pence, days earlier. Instead, a bold and familiar prediction: “We’re gonna win so big.”
Melania Trump traced her own life story, coming to America from Slovenia, and painted a softer, more rounded portrait of her husband than the hard-nosed, insult-throwing candidate GOP voters have seen at every turn. She praised his “simple goodness” and his loyalty to and love of family — while noting the “drama” that comes with Trump in politics.
“If you want someone to fight for you and your country, I can assure you, he is the guy,” Mrs. Trump told delegates.
Her speech contained a striking resemblance to Michelle Obama’s when she said her parents “impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise, that you treat people with respect.” Mrs. Obama, in her 2008 speech, talked being raised learning about “values, like, you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond, that you do what you say you’re going to do, that you treat people with dignity and respect.”
Similarly, Mrs. Trump said, “we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.” Mrs. Obama said in 2008, “we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work hard for them.”
Themes of the four-day event are all rooted in Trump’s Make American Great Again slogan: make America safe again, work again, first again and one again, in turn.
Safety was first on tap, and a succession of speakers cast Trump as the leader for perilous times and Clinton as the embodiment of a system that has left America vulnerable — or worse.
Pat Smith, mother of Sean Smith, one of the Americans killed in the 2012 Benghazi, Libya, attacks, squarely blamed Clinton, then secretary of state, for the death of her son and for giving false accounts of the events of that night. “If Hillary Clinton can’t give us the truth,” Smith asked, “why should we give her the presidency?”
Clinton was a key figure for the convention — one who is disdained by elements of the Republican Party that are at odds over Trump, and therefore perhaps the best hope for GOP unity as the week and the campaign progress.
GOP divisions erupted on the convention floor Monday afternoon after party officials adopted rules by a shouted voice vote and denied the roll-call vote demanded in lusty shouts by delegates opposing Trump. They were quickly quieted and the evening program unfolded more on script.
Still, there was a silent protest, of sorts, in the many GOP luminaries who are avoiding the convention stage or Cleveland altogether, wary of being linked to a man whose proposals and temperament have sparked an identity crisis within the party.
That left Trump with an eclectic array of validators, among them Willie Robertson, star of “Duck Dynasty,” who took the stage with an American flag bandanna wrapped around his head. Said Robertson: “”No matter who you are, Donald Trump will have your back.”
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Calvin Woodward reported from Washington.
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