Republicans have kicked off their convention to nominate Donald Trump Monday.
True to form, Trump himself provided the first curveball of the week, announcing he will make an unexpected swing to the convention hall Monday night to introduce his wife, Melania, on the first night of speeches.
“I want to watch,” Trump said on Fox News. “It is going to be very exciting.”
This week will belong to Trump — his chance to stand at the pinnacle of American politics in a triumph that few could have imagined when the New York billionaire entered the race a year ago.
The lineup of speakers is aimed at showing off the man behind the mogul, his advisers say. Several family members and friends are slated to speak to his character and reveal a side of Trump that Americans may not know.
Along with Melania Trump, Monday’s opening night speeches include a mix of figures linked broadly under the theme of “Make America Safe Again.” They include Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, as well as immigration advocates, a Marine who fought in the Benghazi attack and entertainers, including actor Scott Baio and Willie Robertson, star of Duck Dynasty.
However, the speakers highlight the wedge the GOP establishment has driven through the party. Many GOP leaders, party elders and rising stars have steered clear of Cleveland, wary of being linked to the nominee. Others have come to town to meet with donors and rank-and-file but have kept heir distance from the main event – essentially coming to the game but hanging out at the tailgate.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez came to Cleveland but had no role on the program. When House Speaker Paul Ryan spoke to Wisconsin delegates Monday morning, he made no mention of Trump in his remarks. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a vanquished Trump rival, planned several public appearances but wasn’t going to step inside the Quicken Loans Arena.
Top Trump adviser Paul Manafort called Kasich’s behavior “petulant” and he brushed off the absence of former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
“Certainly the Bush family, we would have liked to have had them. They’re part of the past. We’re dealing with the future.”
“When we leave here, by and large, it’s going to be a united Republican Party,” he said.
A roll call vote on the nomination is expected Tuesday, with Trump scheduled to close the convention with an acceptance speech late Thursday. Vice presidential pick Mike Pence is to speak Wednesday.
Trump is gaining the nomination during a summer of unsettling violence at home and abroad. In a matter of weeks, Americans have seen deadly police shootings, a shocking ambush of police in Texas and escalating racial tensions, not to mention a failed coup in Turkey and gruesome Bastille Day attack in Nice, France. The killing of three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, early Sunday added to the sense of a nation on edge.
Trump has sought to capitalize on the mood by casting himself as the “law and order candidate” and blasting Democrats for weak leadership in a crisis.
On Monday, he quickly linked the shooter to “radical Islam,” despite early indications the man had no known ties to any extremist group. Former Marine Gavin Eugene Long “seems to be a member of that group also. It seems to be something going on there,” Trump said on Fox News.
Protests are widely expected outside the fenced-off convention site. The city’s police chief, Calvin Williams, said it seems everyone is arriving to “exercise their First Amendment rights.”
Williams said security planners considered whether a ban on the open carry of firearms could be enforced during the convention, but learned that police had no authority to override state law.
The president of one of Cleveland’s police unions asked Gov. Kasich to suspend the law that allows legal gun owners to carry firearms openly. Kasich countered that he doesn’t have the authority to do so.
About a dozen people were seen with guns before the start of a Monday rally.
Democrats also angled for some of the attention on Cleveland.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign is spending about $1 million on TV ads in Ohio this week, according to Kantar Media’s campaign advertising tracker. Her campaign also put out a new digital ad Monday and pro-Clinton ads await Cleveland-area taxicab passengers.
The Associated Press contributed to this article
ILLINOIS BOB says
REALLY? “Many GOP leaders, party elders and rising stars have steered clear of Cleveland, wary of being linked to the nominee”
GUESS WHAT – I don’t want to be linked to them! They can stay home and get the hell out of politics…..AND SHAME ON THE BUSH FAMILY TOO for putting their elitist pride ahead of the Country – just because their son JEB ran such a poor campaign – that’s LOW ENERGY JEB’s FAULT – NOT TRUMPS.
I do know that in ILLINOIS at least, Mark Kirk is a weak republican who is struggling in a fight – in a liberal State – against DEM Tammy Duckworth(less) – hand picked by Obama, so his ass is gone if Kirk rallied in Cleveland to support Trump… Same with 1st term REP IL Governor Bruce Rauner. Rauner needs to continue his fight in Illinois but he needs to get re-elected, and finish breaking down power position Michael Madigan – who is the King of Madighastan (formerly known as Illinois).
On the CUBS side, The Ricketts family splits it up playing the smart politics in a BLUE STATE – giving generously to BOTH the REP’s and DEMS, with family members BOTH splitting their time as DELEGATES to BOTH the Republican nomination and also the Democratic nomination. Plus you have Ricketts spouses donating heavily to Anti-TRUMP PAC.s
Got to hand it to the Ricketts – they know how to play the business game too! But when you close the curtain and vote – I am willing to bet they will be voting TRUMP on a majority family basis!