Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mixed Signals and Missed Chances on First Day of Republican National Convention

Actually, not too much to disagree with at this analysis, from Cathleen Decker, at the Los Angeles Times, "Day 1 of Donald Trump's convention: Scattered in message, unruly in delivery":

The theme of Monday’s opening night of the Republican National Convention was “Make America Safe Again.” In other words, “Make America Safe from Hillary Clinton.”

Donald Trump, who will accept his party’s nomination Thursday, was barely mentioned by many of the speakers, nor were specifics of the few concrete proposals he has made.

The focus instead was on presumptive Democratic nominee Clinton and Republican fears that she would extend President Obama’s two terms in office.

Criticism of the other side, of course, is always part of the convention lineup. But successful conventions typically have a point — to send a strong message to the Americans who will decide the next president.

Sometimes the candidate needs to be humanized. Sometimes gaps of knowledge need to be filled in. At the least, each convention night provides an hour — more on cable stations — of free television coverage to convey a consistent message.

By that standard, the first night of Donald Trump’s convention was less than fully successful — scattershot in its message and undisciplined in its delivery.

Indeed, the most disciplined moment may have been Trump’s own extremely brief introduction of his wife, Melania.

The evening did have dramatic high points. Bereft parents whose children had been killed by immigrants in the country illegally spoke emotionally. Trump himself appeared, backlit on stage before introducing his wife.

But the night lacked the thematic unity that usually marks a successful production.

Despite the ostensible message of safety, the shootings of and by police that have riveted the nation in recent weeks were barely mentioned, except for in praise of the police. Only one speaker, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, even mentioned civilian deaths and that came amid a screaming, arm-flailing defense of law enforcement.

More than a dozen speakers spent far more time on criticism of Clinton and Obama than on any sustained effort to explain the different direction that Trump would take beyond generalities attesting to his toughness. Even that message was somewhat undercut as Melania Trump talked of her husband’s big heart and cast him as a softie.

Other speakers used language and images of the sort that have tormented the Republican Party in its efforts to expand its reach among general election voters, who are less conservative and less white than those who dominate Republican primaries....

Part of the problem for Republican convention planners is that most of Trump’s plans remain on the drawing board. His campaign has rested on more general statements about the need for economic change, a closing of the borders, lessened trade and a less interventionist policy abroad.

The lack of a specific set of plans that each speaker could hammer home for all four nights of the convention may represent a lost opportunity for Trump — one he can ill afford given that he trails, if narrowly, in most polls and faces a financial deficit in the general election.

Other lost opportunities have been visible as the convention neared.

An interview broadcast Sunday on CBS’s “60 Minutes” designed to showcase the relationship between Trump and his new running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, demonstrated the differences between them on key subjects — trade, the Iraq war, negative campaigning.

On Monday morning, rather than remain focused on what he would bring to the country, Trump instead delved into innuendo about President Obama’s loyalties...
Despite all of this, the truly amazing thing is that polls show the presidential horse race remains a virtual dead heat nationally. Hillary's been dropping in the polls, and again, that's after tens of millions in advertising. If Trump somehow wins in November, against all odds, and despite all the gaffes, his ascendance to the Oval Office will have the potential to permanently change the nature and process of presidential elections. His election could signal a real partisan realignment as well.

I guess all of that's what makes it all so interesting.