Battered Trump faces test in convention finale
21 July 2016, 19:07
Cleveland - Donald Trump takes centre stage to deliver the speech of his
political life on Thursday, trying to salvage a fractious Republican convention
that saw a key rival showered in boos for withholding his endorsement.
Appearing before delegates, the most unorthodox and
controversial presidential contender in modern times will accept the nomination
of a party that has guided more candidates to the Oval Office than any other.
But instead of sounding the starting gun on the
general election and placing his candidacy in the sweep of American history,
Trump faces a much more basic task.
Before a television audience of tens of millions,
the bombastic billionaire will have to prove to the American people that he is
worthy of the White House and capable of being commander-in-chief.
nominating convention, which ends in Cleveland on Thursday, has been plagued
with deep party divisions and staggering campaign blunders.
What began on Monday with anti-Trump delegates
voicing misgivings on the convention floor, culminated in a moment of high
political drama on the eve of Trump's speech.
Trump's primary rival Ted Cruz threw the convention
into chaos by provocatively telling delegates to "vote your
conscience" in November.
Ovations and adulations for the conservative Texas
senator turned to jeers and boos as it became clear he had not come to
Cleveland to endorse the party nominee.
"We deserve leaders who stand for principle,
who unite us all behind shared values, who cast aside anger for love,"
said Cruz, effectively listing criticisms often levelled
In another dramatic twist, Trump decided to step on
Cruz's moment in the sun by entering the arena before the Texan had finished
Cruz - who is widely expected to run in 2020 should
Trump lose to Hillary Clinton - was forced to wave and smile before completing
his remarks and exiting to more jeers.
"Wow, Ted Cruz got booed off the stage, didn't
honour the pledge!" Trump tweeted
later, referring to a pledge by Republican primary candidates to support whoever won the party's nomination.
The two men fought a bitter and at times deeply
personal battle for the nomination, in which Trump mocked Cruz's wife and
tarred his rival with a nasty nickname: "Lyin' Ted."
Between the uncharacteristic public spasms of
Republican disunity came the embarrassing revelation that a prime-time speech
by Trump's wife Melania had plagiarised
remarks made by First Lady Michelle Obama.
This was not how the convention was meant to go.
In naming Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his
running mate, Trump had tried to smooth difficult relations with conservatives
and unite the party.
Trump's caustic rhetoric on race, women and Islam
had alienated many Republicans, to say nothing of swing voters.
Pence did his bit, wooing the crowd with
self-deprecating jokes and a clear conservative message in an acceptance
Trump, he joked, is "a man known for a large
personality, a colourful style and lots
of charisma and I guess he was just looking for some balance on the
The 57-year-old said he "joined this campaign
in a heartbeat" because Republicans nominated Trump, a man "who never
quits, who never backs down."
Throughout the convention,
Trump's family members have also tried to soften his brash public image.
Meanwhile, a string of Republican speakers savaged
his Democratic opponent, describing Clinton as a liar who should be jailed.
Trump's roller-coaster campaign defeated 16 rivals
and steamrolled stubborn party opposition after being written off as a joke,
the real estate tycoon having never held elected office.
His campaign defied political norms - embracing
racially inflammatory policies, offending key voting blocs, eschewing
big-spending advertising campaigns and relying on saturated media coverage
above campaign structure.
In an interview with the New York Times on
Wednesday, he raised anew questions about whether, as president, he would come
to a Nato ally's defence if it were
attacked, saying it would depend "if they fulfil
their commitments to us."
Trump told the Times he would press the theme of
"America First" in his acceptance speech on Thursday night.
Polls following the convention will show whether
Trump can continue to defy political gravity.
Many candidates have seen a bump in the polls
following the party convention.
Democrats, who will hold their own convention from
Monday, will do their utmost to make sure
Trump enjoys no post-nomination bounce.
Clinton is expected to steal the limelight on
Friday or Saturday by announcing her vice presidential running mate.