- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 21, 2016

CLEVELAND — Donald Trump completed his takeover of the Republican Party on Thursday, claiming the presidential nomination, calling for unity within the party and holding himself out as the real agent of change all voters have been waiting for.

He called for a return to law and order and for a crackdown on illegal immigration, bemoaned an economy that has left minorities behind and a federal budget in shambles. “We cannot afford to be so politically correct anymore,” he said.

“I am your voice,” he said. “I have embraced crying mothers who have lost their children because our politicians put their personal agendas before the national good. I have no patience for injustice, no tolerance for government incompetence, no sympathy for leaders who fail their citizens.”

Nearly a year after he took to the stage in the first Republican primary debate, a question mark to some Republican voters and a horror for others, Mr. Trump returned to the same Quicken Loans Arena to deliver a valedictory address, having surmounted the largest and most impressive field of candidates in modern political history.

A newcomer to electoral politics, the billionaire businessman hijacked President Obama’s own 2008 campaign mantra of “change” — but said after nearly eight years, this administration has fallen short.

“My message is that things have to change — and they have to change right now,” he said.

SEE ALSO: Donald Trump, Republicans move toward embrace of gays in convention’s final night

He promised tax cuts to spur the economy, said he would carve through the mass of red tape regulations that have stifled productivity and would invest in the nation’s infrastructure, all with the goal of righting an economy still struggling to recover from the recession Mr. Obama inherited in 2009. Jobs, Mr. Trump said, is the measure of success.

Mr. Trump said he’ll “suspend” immigration from countries compromised by terrorism, said he’ll renegotiate existing trade deals, and support school choice so parents can get their children out of failing schools.

Buffeted by complaints that he has been a divisive and at times racist force in the American political debate, Mr. Trump repeatedly said he would be a president for all.

“So to every parent who dreams for their child, and every child who dreams for their future, I say these words to you tonight: I’m with you, I will fight for you, and I will win for you,” he said.

The final night of the Republican National Convention was laden with black speakers, women in high elected office and even a gay Republican tech entrepreneur, Peter Thiel, who stood on the stage and proudly declared his sexual orientation — then called for voters to get beyond “fake culture wars.”

“When I was a kid, the great debate was about how to defeat the Soviet Union. And we won. Now we are told that the great debate is about who gets to use which bathroom,” he said. “This is a distraction from our real problems. Who cares?”

SEE ALSO: Donald Trump promises ‘the truth, and nothing else,’ releases speech transcript with 282 footnotes

Many in the crowd gave him a standing ovation, and chants of “U-S-A” came from the rafters.

In November awaits Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, the opposite of Mr. Trump in nearly every way. A lawyer by training, she served as first lady, then senator from New York and finally as State Department secretary. She inherited her husband’s political network yet struggled to overcome a weak field in her own party.

During the primaries, she tacked to the left of Mr. Obama, vowing to outdo his executive orders and economic policies, to oppose his Pacific trade deal and to rescue his health care law, Obamacare.

In a statement after Mr. Trump’s speech John Podesta, the Clinton campaign chairman, said it was a “dark picture of an America in decline.”

“And his answer — more fear, more division, more anger, more hate — was yet another reminder that he is temperamentally unfit and totally unqualified to be president of the United States,” Mr. Podesta said. “He offered no real solutions to help working families get ahead or to keep our country safe, just more prejudice and paranoia.”

Mr. Trump has not shied away from attacking her on all fronts — including her husband’s questionable personal past, their record during eight years in the White House and Mrs. Clinton’s own performance as secretary of state.

He said she has left the world a more dangerous place than it was when Mr. Obama tapped her in 2009 and that Mr. Obama likely “truly regrets” having chosen Mrs. Clinton and “her bad instincts.”

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

Mrs. Clinton is perhaps the best thing Mr. Trump has going for him, and the party is aware of it. On the delegates’ seats Thursday was a sticker that read, “Defeat Hillary/Vote Trump!” The order suggested which was the more important goal.

Many Republicans remain worried about whether their candidate is up to the challenges of a general election, and delegates on the floor offered changes they would like to see from him.

Ivanka Trump, one of his daughters, sought to ease those fears by assuring the convention that her father proved during the primary that he is a fast learner.

“He dug deeper, worked harder, got better and became stronger,” she said.

She continued the Trump children’s quest to show another side to their father, whom most voters know only as a reality TV star and brash politician.

Ms. Trump, who has been deeply involved in his companies, said he hired based on talent and promoted women well before it was common in New York real estate. She also said her father would change labor laws to make it easier for mothers to stay employed and keep progressing in their jobs.

“Politicians ask to be judged by promises, not results. I ask you to judge my father by his results,” she said. “He’s the single most qualified person to serve as chief executive of an $18 trillion economy.”

Mr. Trump is now firmly in control of the national Republican Party, even if it’s sometimes unclear whether he is in control of his own campaign. A convention meant to show competence and unity has instead highlighted the glitches in Mr. Trump’s operation and the deep divisions that still cleave the party.

A number of the 16 candidates Mr. Trump defeated in the primary stayed away from Cleveland altogether — some offering tepid support for Mr. Trump from afar. Others insisted that they would never vote for him and would seek an alternate candidate.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, one of Mr. Trump’s opponents during the primary, didn’t show, even though the convention was in his home state. Neither did former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, nor his father or brother, the last two Republican presidents.

Sen. Ted Cruz did show up — then pointedly refused to endorse Mr. Trump, puncturing Wednesday’s proceedings and leaving delegates distraught.

“The poor lady next to me started bawling,” said Jeff Crouere, a delegate from Louisiana. “She was so upset that Ted Cruz did not endorse Trump because she thought it was really bad for party unity. She just started crying.”

While Mr. Cruz’s move may stiffen the resolve of Mr. Trump’s core supporters, it squandered the chance to bridge gaps with the rest of the party and voters more broadly, delegates said.

“The hard-core base, they will come out of this excited,” said Chip Nottingham, a delegate from the District of Columbia who supported Mr. Kasich in the primary. “But as far as bridging that gap from the hard-core 30 to 35 percent that is going to vote for Trump no matter what he does and that other 15 percent he needs to get over the top, I don’t see that 15 percent coming away inspired,” he said.

Hoping to put the convention back on track, the convention deployed Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, an influential groups for religious conservatives, to dispel doubts about Mr. Trump.

“Donald Trump is the nominee of the Republican Party. And I will be voting for Donald Trump in November,” Mr. Perkins said.

The other speakers Thursday night included the Rev. Jerry Falwell Jr. and Mark Burns, the fiery pastor at Harvest Praise and Worship Center in Easley, South Carolina.

Mr. Trump — whose campaign confounded pundits by doing everything against the book, yet succeeded anyway — has been under pressure to adopt more standard tactics. He spoke from prepared remarks, breaking his habit of going off the cuff.

He also is belatedly building up his staff and has begun to raise money, going back on his primary campaign promise not to actively solicit donors’ money.

While badly trailing Mrs. Clinton in fundraising, the campaign says it can catch up. On Thursday, the Trump campaign said it raised $3.5 million over the previous 24 hours, coinciding with the acceptance speech of the Republican vice presidential nominee, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

Polls show Mr. Trump running slightly behind Mrs. Clinton nationally in polls, though he appears to be competitive in states where Republicans have struggled for years, including Pennsylvania. He also os running neck and neck with Mrs. Clinton in Ohio and Florida but is underperforming Republican levels in Arizona and Georgia.

That suggests an electoral map in November that could look dramatically different from the past four elections, underscoring just how much the newcomer, Mr. Trump, has scrambled politics.

S.A. Miller, David Sherfinski, David Sands and Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide