Republican Donald Trump formally accepted the GOP nomination for president on Thursday and used the prime-time address to paint a picture of America in crisis both at home and abroad.
In a speech that ran well over an hour and didn’t wrap up until 11:34 p.m., Trump said the country is under siege by crime, terrorism, illegal immigration, bad trade deals, weak foreign policy and other threats. He pinned the blame for these problems on President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his opponent in the fall campaign.
Trump loaded the speech with tough talk on trade and immigration — signature issues for him throughout the campaign.
“Americans want relief from uncontrolled immigration. Communities want relief. Yet Hillary Clinton is proposing mass amnesty, mass immigration, and mass lawlessness,” he said. “Her plan will overwhelm your schools and hospitals, further reduce your jobs and wages, and make it harder for recent immigrants” to escape from poverty.
“My message is that things have to change — and they have to change right now,” he said.
After a convention marred by charges of plagiarism, a public snub from Ohio Gov. John Kasich who refused to endorse him, and open hostility directed at U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz for failing to endorse Trump during his convention speech, Trump took to the stage and promised that he is the man to restore order in America as a law and order president.
He also pledged to re-negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has been in place for 20 years, and strike trade deals with individual countries, not regions.
“I have made billions of dollars in business making deals — now I’m going to make our country rich again. I am going to turn our bad trade agreements into great ones,” Trump said.
Trump’s address covered a wide range of domestic policy — tax cuts and simplification, school choice, immigration reform, a repeal of Obamacare —and he touched on his America First foreign policy. “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo,” he said.
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said, “One of the darkest speeches I’ve ever heard — all fear mongering with no actual ideas on how to solve any of our problems.”
Trump’s night and address to millions of viewers is a remarkable turn for someone who, until a year ago, was known mostly for his wealth, his businesses, his marriages and the TV show in which he provided the signature words “You’re fired.”
On Thursday, he told Americans: “I am your voice.”
That message won’t likely quiet some of the turbulence created during a bizarre week in Cleveland, where the protests outside were mostly calm but the drama inside Quicken Loans Arena was anything but.
Despite pleas for unity, Republicans are leaving Cleveland today almost as divided and anxious as when they arrived nearly a week ago.
Quicken Loans Arena, home to the Cleveland Cavaliers, had hundreds of open seats throughout the week and enthusiasm appeared to be lacking among many who were there. Delegates were seen checking their phones and yawning even during high-profile speeches.
One after another, establishment Republicans and rivals snubbed Trump in Cleveland.
Cruz walked on stage to a hero’s welcome and left under a shower of boos. His speech, and the controversy afterward, upstaged the acceptance speech of Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence, the Indiana governor who was essentially introducing himself to the American voter.
Kasich stuck his thumb in Trump’s eye too — refusing to endorse Trump or appear on the convention floor. Instead, Kasich zipped from one event to the next, describing his life philosophy and policies in terms that are diametrically opposite those of Trump.
The biggest unforced error of the convention week: failure to fully vet Melania Trump’s speech. Mrs. Trump attempted to cast her hardball businessman husband as a loyal family man with a kind heart. But headlines the next day focused on how Mrs. Trump lifted words used by Michelle Obama in her 2008 Democratic National Convention speech about her husband.
Mike Gonidakis, a Dublin delegate who is president of Ohio Right to Life, said, “There are a lot of hurt feelings right know, a lot of raw emotions.” Ohioans were upset over a number of issues, including the seating arrangements which all but put them on the sidelines of the arena, a punishment perhaps for Kasich beating Trump in the Ohio primary.
But Gonidakis said he’s talked to “almost every single voting delegate” and all have told him they would support Trump.
Ohio Republican Party Matt Borges, too, acknowledged that “things got off to a bad start” at the convention. But, he said, Republicans have to focus on who picks the next Supreme Court justices, who sets foreign policy around the world and who helps the economy recover.
Trump’s speech painted Clinton as unfit to lead the country, and he seemed to lay the blame for virtually every international crisis at her feet.
“After four years of Hillary Clinton, what do we have? ISIS has spread across the region, and the world. Libya is in ruins, and our Ambassador and his staff were left helpless to die at the hands of savage killers,” he said in a reference to the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead.
Such attacks on Clinton will surely continue throughout the campaign. Republicans may be divided over Trump, but they appear to be completely united against the presumptive Democratic nominee.
“This convention has had four days to lay out a plan for our country and all they talk about is Hillary Clinton,” Montgomery County Democratic Party Chairman Mark Owens said in an interview Thursday. “Donald Trump still has not given a plan, other than saying he would not honor the NATO Treaty. He says he wants to unify the country and he can’t even unify his own party.”
Whether or not the party is unified, Trump continues to do well in the polls. A Rasmussen Reports poll released Thursday shows Trump with a one-point lead over Clinton, while three other polls show the two contenders tied and four polls show Clinton with a two- to four-point lead.
Jessica Wehrman of the Washington Bureau contributed to this report.