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OpinionColumnistsLane Filler

What GOP speakers missed Tuesday night at GOP convention

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin slams the

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin slams the gavel top put Donald J. Trump into nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday, July 19, 2016. Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

CLEVELAND - Republican Party leaders had an opportunity Tuesday night to make a positive case for Donald Trump as president, and for the GOP as the vehicle to “Make America Work Again.” It’s not that they failed. They didn’t even try.
 
The speech by House Speaker Paul Ryan – because he’s regarded as a deep thinker and because he’s been reticent about supporting Trump’s campaign – presented the best opportunity to make the case for the Republican candidate as the potential leader of the free world and to reconcile traditional conservatism with his agenda. What has been a pro-trade agreement, entitlement cut-promising and socially conservative party won’t easily mesh with a New York City billionaire who kindled a movement by promising to end trade agreements and leave entitlements alone.
 
It was up to Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to put it all together. All three did a creditable job of attacking Hillary Clinton. But they barely mentioned Trump, and barely even flicked at the evening’s theme.
 
Paul got off several good lines, including “a third Obama term brought to you by another Clinton.” And he laid out some priorities he said could be achieved under a Republican president, but did not say how they would be achieved.
 
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie scored with his “indictment” of Clinton on her policies, and a call-and-response with the audience of “guilty or not guilty,” though it went on too long. And Donald Trump Jr. ignited the crowd with heartfelt remarks about the finer points of his father.
 
But the hole in Trump’s campaign that most needs to be filled is the lack of specifics on how he would ‘Make America Great Again.” It’s the job of the candidate’s proxies, like Ryan, McCarthy and McConnell, to put meat on those bones. But when they appear barely able to say his name, that challenge appeared to be beyond either their abilities or their desires.

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