Donald Trump’s speech came amid questions over his abilities as a leader and manager after a convention repeatedly marred by tactical missteps and embarrassing moments of disunity. Photo: AFP
Donald Trump’s speech came amid questions over his abilities as a leader and manager after a convention repeatedly marred by tactical missteps and embarrassing moments of disunity.
Photo: AFP

Donald Trump paints dark portrait of damaged nation only he can save

In the face of dangerous immigrants, unwieldy debt, and an unsafe world, Donald Trump argued his America-first vision and business savvy would right the course

Cleveland: Donald Trump gambled that Americans share his vision of a nation teetering on disaster, accepting the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in a speech on Thursday where he cast himself as a renegade outsider who is the last, best hope to stand up to a discredited and depleted establishment.

“I am your voice," he told a cheering convention hall in Cleveland.

In the face of dangerous immigrants, unwieldy debt, and an unsafe world, Trump argued his America-first vision and business savvy would right the course.

“I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people who cannot defend themselves," he said. “Nobody knows the system better than me—which is why I alone can fix it."

Trump billed himself as the “law-and-order candidate," pledging that “safety will be restored" under his administration.

But the real-estate mogul’s speech came amid questions over his abilities as a leader and manager after a convention repeatedly marred by tactical missteps and embarrassing moments of disunity.

His campaign’s decision to allow his primary rival, Ted Cruz, to speak during prime time on Wednesday—despite having no intention of endorsing the Republican nominee—dominated headlines on a night that was supposed to be a showcase for vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, a social conservative Trump chose explicitly in a bid to unify the party behind him.

In an apparent effort to avoid a repeat of plagiarism allegations against his wife Melania, his campaign released a carefully annotated text of Trump’s speech with 282 footnotes.

Multiple stumbles

The convention has been marred by the plagiarism episode, a gaffe made worse by his campaign’s delayed response. And Trump again provoked concern among party leaders when he told the New York Times on Wednesday that the US might not defend NATO allies if the countries had failed to contribute their fair share to the alliance’s budget. On Monday, opponents to Trump staged a dramatic floor fight in protest of his nomination.

On Thursday, Trump looked to wash away those concerns with his signature charisma and confidence. He stood calmly while a protester briefly interrupted his speech.

“I have a message for all of you: The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon and I mean very soon come to an end," he said.

Big test

Still, Trump’s remarks offered little by way of new policy proposals, while doubling down on some of the familiar campaign promises that have alienated him to minority voters. Trump echoed his call to “build a great border wall to stop illegal immigration" and devoted a lengthy section of his speech to discussing Americans who had been killed by immigrants.

The immigration language may solidify negative impressions of Trump among Latino voters, an important and growing voter bloc in swing states like Florida, Virginia, and Colorado. Some 82 percent of Hispanic registered voters viewed Trump unfavorably, and three out of four said they planned to vote for Clinton, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released over the weekend.

Still, the nationalist message could have appeal in rust belt states like Ohio and Pennsylvania that Trump has identified as key to his campaign.

Trump’s apparent refusal to pivot to the center suggests he sees his best chance at defeating Hillary Clinton as motivating the many of the same voters who propelled him to the stage in Cleveland.

A central component of that strategy is prosecuting the case against Clinton, as evidenced by a week defined by relentless attacks on the Democratic nominee by nearly every convention speaker. Trump said the world is less stable than when Barack Obama appointed Clinton secretary of state, a decision he said he’s certain Obama regrets.

“This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction, terrorism and weakness," Trump said.

Religion and business

The speakers that joined Trump on the fourth night of the convention were relatively low-profile, so as not to risk overshadowing the presidential nominee’s main address. Still, they represented the unorthodox coalition that Trump is hoping can propel him to the White House.

Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, spoke early in the evening. Falwell’s endorsement of Trump earlier this year helped the twice-divorced New Yorker make inroads with the party’s evangelical base.

Falwell, in a nod to the discord, warned Republicans that if they failed to vote for Trump, they were risking the future of the Supreme Court. A “decision not to vote or vote for a third party candidate is a de facto vote for Hillary Clinton," he said.

And Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel—the first speaker to declare he was gay in a speech at the Republican National Convention—extolled Trump as the antidote to income inequality and a “broken" government.

“I don’t pretend to agree with every plank in our party’s platform," the PayPal Holdings Inc. co-founder said. “But fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline. And nobody in this race is being honest about it except Donald Trump."

Trump was introduced by his daughter Ivanka, who worked to humanize her father and tried to appeal to women who may still be having second thoughts about Clinton.

Trump’s daughter delivered perhaps the most optimistic speech of the entire convention, speaking on issues like family leave and equal pay that got little play in other convention speeches. She said her father was “colourblind and gender neutral" and hires “the best person" for a job.

“At my father’s company, there are more female than male executives," she said. “When a woman becomes a mother she is supported, not shut out."

Struggles with women

Trump has consistently fared poorly among women in polls. A Washington Post-ABC News poll published 17 July showed that 69% of women have an unfavourable view of him, and surveys of married women, a key demographic for Republicans, have been especially harsh for the billionaire.

A Purple Slice poll for Bloomberg Politics in April showed that Trump is viewed negatively by almost three-quarters of married women, with almost 60% saying the way Trump talks about women is offensive and embarrassing.

In the 2012 election, married women preferred Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama 53% to 46%, exit polls showed.

“She’ll give great perspective on family," Trump’s son, Eric said in an interview with Bloomberg Politics on Thursday. “She’ll be very, very personal."

‘Well liked’

Ultimately, however, all eyes were on Trump.

In the interview on Wednesday with the Times, the Republican nominee said he hoped people would take away from the convention “the fact that I’m very well liked."

Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, told reporters in Cleveland Thursday that his candidate’s message is reaching undecided voters, even amid the distractions.

“People are hearing the message," he said. “I think you will see next week that the polls will show that the convention was successful." Bloomberg

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