Winners and Losers: GOP Convention Night Three

Last night was the third night of the GOP Convention in Cleveland. Without further ado, and hoping that we avoid any technical difficulties, let’s dive right in:

WINNERS

Mike Pence: This was his big moment. He accepted the Vice Presidential nomination and effectively laid out his role on the ticket. He was humble, self-deprecating, strong, concise, but firmly resolved. Even Mr. Trump’s greatest supporters will see that there are “rough edges” to Mr. Trump’s persona. Governor Pence made long strides last night in reassuring the Party that he would start to be some insulation between some of Trump’s bombast and the public. While Mr. Trump is an engagingly fun speaker to listen to (c’mon, give him some credit, you never know what’s going to happen at his speeches and it’s kind of exciting), he sometimes goes on tangents and fails to follow through on policy statements and details. Governor Pence effectively conveyed the “Trumpian” message last night with precision and in a way that could be symbiotic with the larger-scale “big tent” Republicanism. In all, he needed a good speech, and he got it.

Newt Gingrich: Earlier in the week, we were critical of the Trump Campaign for failing to have effective “rapid response.” Basically, what this means is having a “spin team” ready to give the Campaign’s take on an issue that would otherwise fester or get a life of its own. Newt Gingrich allayed those concerns last night. After Ted Cruz’s rambling quasi-attack on Trump (we’ll get to that later), Gingrich strayed from prepared remarks at the beginning of his speech to deliver a blisteringly good defense of the Nominee while pulling no punches against Mr. Cruz. The delivery, though, to Gingrich’s credit wasn’t a takedown of Cruz, but rather a building-up of Trump. This is a welcome departure from the oft-chided Trumpian slams on fellow Republicans. The rest of Gingrich’s speech was strong, but, it will be remembered for his coming to Trump’s defense.

Eric Trump: Having to follow Ted Cruz in a hall full of broken jumbotrons and a raucous crowd was no easy task. However, Eric Trump was able to persevere and give a solid defense of his father right after Ted Cruz’s ramblings. While it was not as choreographed as his brother Don Jr.’s speech the night before, Eric Trump showed, again, as this week has been proving, the Trump kids are pretty good on stage. As Governor Pence would point out later in the night: “you can’t fake great kids.”

Ted Cruz’s 2016 Campaign: He reminded you that he existed and that he was angry. After Trump insulted his wife and father, Mr. Cruz got time to deliver an address in prime time. This was, at best, a risky call for the GOP. Mr. Cruz dishonored his pledge to support the nominee and told voters to go with their conscience. Why is his 2016 campaign in the winners’ column? Because people are going to be talking about it. Rather than fade into irrelevance, Mr. Cruz took a stand. For that, the holdout, die hard, Ted Cruz supporters were probably happy.

Strong Women for Trump: There were several female executives who gave speeches in prime time to support Mr. Trump. They weren’t all the most memorable speeches, but they conveyed the right optics: the Trump Organization, and Trump himself, promotes women equally to men. The issue of Mr. Trump’s relationship with women has, and will continue to be, no small part of the criticism leveled against him. However, taking steps to show, concretely, that, in business Mr. Trump has advanced women to executive levels, will help his perception on the issue.

The Guy Who Got the Power Back On Before Pence Made His Speech: The control room was probably freaking out for the better part of an hour trying to get power restored. Whoever got it working again deserves combat pay.

Scott Walker: The Wisconsin Governor spoke to the crowd without a podium. For a campaign where “high energy” was an issue, Governor Walker showed more pep that we’ve seen out of him for years. He also, officially, came around to supporting Trump wholeheartedly. Yes, the speech fell a little flat, but Walker continued to draw a national audience and showed unity on a night where that wound up being a major concern.

Donald Trump: CSPAN cut away twice during Ted Cruz’s speech to focus on Trump arriving at the convention and then coming into the hall. Both times, it was clear Mr. Trump expected this coverage and expected it to detract from Cruz. It was a WWE-style moment and classically Trump. His Vice President officially accepted nomination, so, it was a good night for him.

Checklists: Some of the pre-prime speeches seemed like the speakers had been given checklists of buzzwords to repeat. Keeping score at home of what buzzwords were checked-off was entertaining.

LOSERS

Ted Cruz’s 2020 Campaign: Sometimes you want to do what feels good and tell people off. You usually don’t do it because you realize you will have to keep those bridges for the future. Well, Ted Cruz, in prime time, torched those bridges. He’s betting Trump loses and that he can ride in in 2020 and propose an arch-conservative message to redeem America. However, Mr. Cruz will need the wide majority of Mr. Trump’s supporters from 2016 to come to his side if he has any hope for a presidential run. This now seems very unlikely. Ted Cruz’s surrogates lost all of their battles in the rules committee and on the floor of the convention as they tried to emulate Reagan’s 1976 convention strategy. But, let’s remember, Reagan didn’t get booed off the stage in 1976.

The Jumbotron Contractor: You had one job! Maybe they got hacked or maybe they were trying to cut Ted Cruz off. Whatever it was, it was national prime time and embarrassing.

The New York Delegation: I get it, you wanted Cruz to endorse Trump. He maybe should have. However, you’re on national television and created a spectacle. This probably wasn’t the way Donald Trump wanted it to go down.

Marco Rubio: A two-minute ho-hum pre-recorded video endorsement of Trump and Party principles was forgettable.

The RNC: Why on Earth did you let Ted Cruz speak in Prime Time? This isn’t meant as a slam on Cruz, but rather on, what must have been a whole room full of terrible judgment.

Circus Performers: I didn’t follow that speech and I defy anyone else to tell me what it was really all about.

Matt McDaniel

Attorney and Political Commentator

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