The Thinker: Rich Galen


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Last Night in Cleveland

Rich Galen

Friday July 22, 2016


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  • Let's start with this: For the first and only time during the 4-day GOP convention in Cleveland, the only thing everyone is talking about today is the speech of its nominee, Donald Trump.

  • Not plagiarism. Not "Lock her up" chants. Not Ted Cruz. If you're only going to get one night right, good that it's the last night.

  • According to a CNN/ORC poll taken immediately after the speech, nearly 75 percent of respondents liked it.

  • They didn't call me.

  • I know. I know. I live inside the Beltway (in fact I can see the Beltway from my back porch and I am definitely inside it) and I don't understand what's going on in the rest of the nation. I get that.

  • Donald Trump will likely get the standard "Convention Bounce" of 3 to 5 percentage points, even if that bounce has a sell-by date of the end of Hillary Clinton's convention one week from today. Part of that will be the result of this speech.

  • Acceptance speeches can have a great effect. In 2000, Al Gore came into his convention trailing George W. Bush. According to a chart by the University of Virginia's Larry Sabato Gore went into the convention with a median polling score of 39.6 percent.

  • After his dramatic closing speech, Gore gained 6.5 percentage points and essentially closed the gap with Bush - a gap that remained razor thin through the rest of the campaign and through the recount process in Florida more than a month later.

  • Trump's speech didn't close the gap for me, because I didn't think he brought anything new to the table. In fact, I Tweeted after the speech that it was as if the writers had gone though the tapes of all of his rallies, pulled out the footage of Trump at his angriest, and cobbled them together into that speech.

  • This was the antithesis of Reagan's "Shining City on the Hill" imagery. This was "See that hill, built by Barak Obama? See that city designed by Hillary Clinton? I'm going to blow them both off the face of the Earth." Guaranteed cheer line for an energized and hyper-partisan crowd, but he already had the huge proportion of the people in the hall.

  • The speech was, in effect, a primary election speech. It was aimed at the same people who have propelled Trump to the nomination. If that was the goal, it was successful.

  • But, Trump can't win with just the people who supported him. The furor over Ted Cruz' refusal to endorse Trump was largely because Cruz urged his supporters to "follow their conscience" on November 8, telling a portion of Cruz voters - maybe a large portion - don't vote for Trump.

  • According to a pre-convention Washington Post/ABC News poll, only about 82 percent of Republicans are backing Trump (86 percent of Democrats are supporting Clinton). Keeping in mind there are more self-identified Democrats than Republicans, Trump needs to get his GOP support to over 90 percent.

  • His speech did nothing to convince that 18 percent of disaffected Republican voters to change their minds. Whatever they didn't like about Trump at 10 O'clock Thursday night, they still didn't like at 11:30.

  • One of the unresolved issues about Trump is how can his children wax so rhapsodic about the tender loving Donald Trump they presented, while he shouted at us for 75 straight minutes? Watch any 60 second clip of Trump's speech last night and think about him hand-writing loving notes on little Tiffany's report cards.

  • I can't do it, either.

  • That same Washington Post poll showed that notwithstanding who they were voting for, 64 percent of respondents had an unfavorable view of Trump (54 percent had the same view of Clinton). Someone has to show me how this speech helped address that problem.

  • Maybe it's a definitional problem. When Trump says "I'll be more Presidential" he thinks it means reading speeches from a Teleprompter. He may not understand that what he's saying is as important as how he's saying it.

  • I'm out of the prediction business, so I won't venture a guess of how the race will settle out after both conventions are over and we know who Clinton has chosen as her Vice Presidential running-mate.

  • The best than can be said is the GOP got through the Convention in Cleveland. Given the possible other outcomes, maybe that will be enough.

    Lad Link: Here's @ReedGalen's take on the process in his Singularity column.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the Sabato "Convention Bounce" chart, to the Florida Recount, and to the WaPo/ABC News pre-convention poll.

    The Mullfoto is a license plate you have to decode for yourself.

    -- END --

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