10 Takeaways Going Into The Final Night Of The GOP Convention

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, center, gives a thumbs up as he talks with production crew during a walk through in preparation for his speech at the Republican National Convention, Thursday, July 21, 2016, in Cleveland. At right is his daughter Ivanka. (Evan Vucci/AP)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, center, gives a thumbs up as he talks with production crew during a walk through in preparation for his speech at the Republican National Convention, Thursday, July 21, 2016, in Cleveland. At right is his daughter Ivanka. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Editor's note: As the final evening of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland approaches, political scientist and Massachusetts delegate John Sivolella provides his top 10 takeaways from the perspective of the floor of Quicken Loans Arena. 


First, major shout-out to Cleveland. It’s obvious the city is in a good place on the heels of the Cavaliers bringing home its first championship in 52 years. Its pride in hosting the convention came through every day. Volunteers, the massive law-enforcement presence and everyday citizens of the city have been patient, gracious and the event is very well-organized. Cleveland rocked it.

John Kasich

Ohio Gov. John Kasich cut his own path this week. He was indeed around, addressing various gatherings and being a presence. But he stayed on his message and refused to actually attend the convention despite heavy pressure. A story was even leaked during the week, presumably by a Kasich source, providing grim detail on how Kasich refused an offer to become Trump’s running mate.  

Ted Cruz  

What more can be said? Sen. Ted Cruz made history by trying to dupe the convention. His feint from what appeared to be a path leading to an endorsement of Trump to his ultimate “vote your conscience” moment got him literally booed off the stage. That was shocking.

And in the best traditions of boxing or wrestling, Trump decided to enter the arena when Cruz was still speaking to end his night early. It worked, as most persons on the floor stopped paying attention to Cruz to turn around and photograph Trump.

Mike Pence

Vice presidential nominee Pence is the unsung success story of the convention. He did his job. With good humor and self-deprecating manner, he brought some relaxed moments and good-natured chuckling that had been lacking at the Q.

Pence will continue to provide a public foil for Trump’s temperament and, behind the scenes, will be a sounding board for GOP conservatives.  He’ll also likely succeed in bringing some of those conservatives who are on the fence onto the Trump train.

The Trump Family

The Trump family is revered by Donald’s delegates in the Q. They have emerged as an enormous asset for the campaign. They come across in person as sincere, intelligent and likeable. The campaign will be smart to juxtapose the family with Bill Clinton as much as possible between now and November. Like Pence, the Trump family will add an element of humanity to Trump’s brash and aggressive manner.

Hillary Clinton  

The convention has revealed that the GOP plan is for Clinton to play as big a role as Trump himself in bringing out voters for its nominee. The only topics that engendered as much sound and fury on the floor of the Q as support for Trump were Clinton’s myriad foibles. The impact of her high negatives will dog her until November. It remains to be seen, however, whether the Independents that the GOP needs to attract will be brought out by voting against her (as opposed to coming around to Trump) — or simply stay home.

Speakers And Topics

There was an odd recurring error among the pool speakers at the convention this week.

It seemed at times that the topics didn’t always match up well with the people delivering the message. For instance, some folks who had worked for Trump in the private sector or knew the family personally would meander into critiques of policy regarding foreign or domestic affairs or counter-terrorism. Speakers like those should have been utilized only to provide testimonials about Trump, the person — to tell a large viewing audience a positive story that they would not hear from the mainstream media. And overall, the convention may have squandered an opportunity to humanize Trump going into the fall.

The Media: Treatment Of 

Hostility toward the mainstream media at the convention has been palpable, intense — and by design.

This occasionally makes for awkward moments since many recognizable media figures — oftentimes live on air — are moving about the floor elbow-to-elbow with many of the very people who seem to vehemently dislike them. Nonetheless, on a personal level, delegates do not interfere with live shots or talk disrespectfully to members of the media face-to-face. In fact, on the ground relations seem to be cordial if not friendly.     

The Media: Judgement 

One ubiquitous aspect of the coverage on the floor is that members of the media often tend to interview persons who look, well, silly. If this habit is to show people having a good time and wearing giant funny elephant hats or light-up Trump capes, it’s innocuous and lighthearted. If it’s used to skew the portrayal of Republicans on the floor, however, it’s inappropriate.                  

Donald Trump

Trump’s aggressive approach has worked for him thus far and he seems to have no intention of altering it. There has been little at the convention generated by the Trump people that is much different from what has played out in their campaign over the last year.

Trump’s speech on Thursday night will likely make or break his convention. And it is unlikely he will waiver from his usual style. His mere appearances in the Q this week have riled the passions of his delegates. It’s likely his speech will drive a decibel level in the arena that hasn’t been seen at a GOP convention in a long time.


Headshot of John Sivolella

John Sivolella Cognoscenti contributor
John Sivolella is on the faculty at Columbia University, where he teaches about the presidency, federal agencies and public policy.



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