RNC Day 2: Trump Campaign Tries to Move Past Drama
Donald Trump’s campaign sought to turn the page Tuesday on the plagiarism controversy over his wife Melania’s keynote speech and a rocky first day in Cleveland to get the Republican National Convention back on track.
The billionaire aims to capitalize on his official coronation as the party’s presidential nominee in a roll-call vote — a rite of passage that must overcome some last minute commotion but could ultimately serve as a needed moment of unity for the party. Convention delegates are also expected to nominate his vice presidential pick, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
GOP heavy hitters including House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will deliver speeches designed to turn the focus directly back on Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The theme of Tuesday evening will be “Make America Work Again,” and will double down on the Trump campaign’s effort to slam the Obama administration after Monday’s program was dominated by speakers painting a dire picture of national security.
Two of Trump’s children, Tiffany and Donald Jr., will also seek to put a more human face on their father as he tries to broaden his appeal, after adopting a confrontational persona in the Republican primary battle.
But the fallout over Melania Trump’s address, which featured unattributed excepts from a speech by First Lady Michelle Obama, mounted on Tuesday as critics used it to question the campaign’s competence and readiness for power and the campaign swatted away the controversy as “absurd.”
Donald Trump, who briefly introduced Melania on Monday after emerging onto the stage through a cloud of smoke and blue light, was furious about the embarrassment, two sources told CNN. The campaign, however, signaled that no one would be fired or disciplined over the episode.
Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort accused the Clinton campaign of jumping on the controversy to attack Melania Trump because she was a threat to the former secretary of state’s presidential candidacy.
But senior Clinton campaign communications advisor Karen Finney hit back, saying : “You can’t blame everything on us. Some of the mistakes that are made are made by the Trump campaign.”
Clinton did not weigh into the controversy but did slam the first night of the Republican convention as similar to the “Wizard of Oz.”
“Lots of sound and fury, even a fog machine, but when you pulled back the curtain, it was just Donald Trump with nothing to offer the American people,” Clinton said in Las Vegas.
It remained unclear, however, whether the firestorm over the Melania Trump speech will have a lasting impact on voters, especially since her speech was an often touching tribute to her husband and her adoptive United States.
The Trump campaign has been the most unconventional political operation in many decades, and political reversals that would have hobbled any other candidacy have repeatedly blown over with little apparent affect.
Top Republicans sought to put the controversy to rest.
“Whatever happened with the writing was unfortunate,” Republican Sen. John Barrasso told CNN’s Carol Costello on Tuesday. “I don’t want all the unity of this convention to be overshadowed by that.”
Sen. Marco Rubio told CNN’s Jake Tapper he understood “why it’s a big deal in terms of the internal, inside baseball of political coverage.”
“But I think for the vast majority of Americans, it doesn’t really matter one way or the other,” Rubio said.
The drama was not the only sign of early disarray at the convention. At one point Monday, a group of holdouts tried to embarrass convention organizers by initiating a floor fight over rules. Meanwhile, some of the GOP’s rising stars, like Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, saw their big moments overshadowed because of a haphazard speaking schedule.
As well as Christie, Ryan and Paul, Tuesday’s line-up of speakers will include soft-spoken former Republican presidential candidate and pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson and West Virginia Republican Sen. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito.