CLEVELAND — So far the Republican Party and Donald Trump have stumbled in making their case for the White House and will have to make some quick pivots before he accepts the nomination on Thursday if he is to broaden his appeal to voters, several political obsevors said.
“The grade so far is incomplete,” said Kevin Madden, a national Republican strategist who was a top adviser to former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. “The most important goal is to project a feeling of unity . . . you can’t put on a cosmetic face that the party is unified.”
He cited Monday’s brief floor fight, some motivated by Romney’s anti-Trump effort, to free delegates to vote for candidates other than Trump. It failed.
Madden said the first day of the convention also was directed too much at the conservative base. Speeches were dominated by soldiers and parents of military and police who died in violence blamed on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, and Democratic President Barack Obama “rather than trying to motivate voters who are undecided.”
But upcoming speakers include “validators,” and that could help Trump reach beyond his base, Madden said. House Speaker Paul Ryan is scheduled to speak Tuesday and Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, will speak Wednesday night.
“You lost one day,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you can’t get straight A’s the next three days.”
“It’s been a rough start,” said Doug Muzzio, political science professor at Baruch College. He said a presidential convention, usually very scripted, should open with a serious, optimistic tone that reaffirms the base and entices independent and undecided voters.
Instead, he cited the first night of speakers that included “duck hunters and underwear models . . . and Rudy psycho” as setting a fear mongering and sometimes silly tone for a serious race. Muzzio referred to speakers Willie Robertson, star of the reality TV show “Duck Dynasty;” actor Antonio Sabato Jr., an Italian immigrant who became a U.S. citizen, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who made a fiery speech about America under siege by terrorists.
In addition, what was supposed to be highlight of the important first night, the speech by Trump’s wife, Melania, backfired, he said, after media reports showed her speech was similar in passages to one by first lady Michelle Obama in 2008.
Trump and his supporters also focused too much on what they see as Clinton’s lack of character, said University of Maryland professor Peter Morici said in a phone interview.
“They are equally distasteful individuals,” Morici said of Trump and Clinton in an interview Tuesday. “The issue of character cancel each out. He has said too many things and she has done too many things.”
Trump also has to put meat on his promises to make the nation’s economy stronger than ever and the envy of the world. Undecided voters, Morici said, could be swayed with details.
“He has just thrown around a lot of slogans,” the professor said.