Annie Lowrey: The party of no content
A common convention practice is for the nominee to be scarce and build suspense for the big, primetime speech on the final night. Trump instead is giving continual cameos. Last night, he made full use of the White House as a partisan backdrop, presiding over a pretaped naturalization ceremony for five new Americans, even as he’s choked off various forms of immigration and staked his legacy on a still-uncompleted border wall.
The approach could be self-defeating: Trump’s sheer ubiquity may devalue the acceptance speech he’ll give tomorrow, ending the convention. (Joe Biden appeared a few times at last week’s Democratic National Convention, but wasn’t as frequent a presence as Trump has been.)
Newt Gingrich, the former GOP House speaker and a Trump ally, laughed when I broached the idea that the president’s approach could fall flat. “No, because he’s Trump,” Gingrich told me. “He understands that he’s the star. He’s the reason they’re coming to the show. His first understanding is, ‘If I don’t keep you entertained, I can’t communicate with you, because you’re turning me off.’”
Heading into the convention, Trump advisers previewed the tone as upbeat and optimistic. Trouble is, Trump is neither. Soon after delegates formally voted to make him the Republican nominee in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Monday, he arrived to give a speech and promptly snuffed out hope for a sunny convention. The president opened with a mordant riff about staying in office for 12 more years and then talked about the evils of a mail-in voting system that has been a reliable part of the electoral process for generations. At one point, he complained to the delegates that Fox anchors had talked over their roll-call vote. (Whenever Trump goes off script, there’s always a bizarre moment like this: Here was an incumbent president giving unsolicited stage direction to a daytime cable-news show. A former senior White House official once offered me a theory explaining Trump’s obsession with television: “Trump is the Marshall McLuhan president”—the medium is the message.)
David Frum: The platform the GOP is too scared to publish
Second-guessing Trump’s political instincts can be risky. After all, he won. “I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president and you’re not,” he once told a Time magazine reporter. When the Republican Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential election, the party commissioned a so-called autopsy report, which showed that its outreach to minority voters was weak and that it needed to embrace an immigration plan that would offer a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. That was the expert advice from a panel plotting the party’s revival.
Trump ignored the autopsy when he ran four years later, and paid no price, just as he’s ignored calls over the course of his presidency to reach beyond his base. A video shown at the convention Monday mocked Biden for supporting the same immigration plan Republicans embraced in the wreckage of the 2012 defeat. “This is a different Republican Party,” Gingrich told me.