In a speech that attempted to touch every possible political base, Donald J. Trump drew a literal nationalistic line in the sand during an impassioned acceptance speech of his party’s nomination in Cleveland Thursday night.
Trump’s comfort with the teleprompter clearly grew with every increasing line of a speech that bordered on being too long. But by the time the former reality TV star hit his stride, he had reached out to military veterans, low-income Americans, union workers and the LGBT community in an amazing display of both stamina and, for Trump, discipline.
The result was the most blatant appeal to “Americanism” since Ronald Reagan in 1980 and more likely since Barry Goldwater in 1964. And therein lies the question that will not be answered until November. Will such a brash degree of nationalism, coupled with a dose of the law and order message of Richard Nixon’s era, result in a Reagan victory of 1980 or a crushing defeat such as Goldwater’s 1964 effort?
Anyone who pretends to have that answer following Trump’s energetic and virtually flawless presentation of his multipronged combination of attacks on his opponent and promises of economic and foreign policy improvements would be a foolish and biased pundit. The truth is, with Donald Trump, nothing is ever normal and anything is possible.
Trump’s performance, which left previous plastic and predictable GOP nominees such as John McCain and Mitt Romney in the dust, was much needed after a GOP convention that lurched from one controversy to the next. Perhaps the most important result of his address was the obvious enthusiastic response from convention delegates. Just one night earlier they were jolted and visibly disturbed by an all-too obvious politically opportunistic speech by Sen. Ted Cruz. His fairly obvious play on words were more that of a college debater gone rogue than that of a potential GOP leader of the future. But the damage he intended to level on Trump had been inflicted.
Trump’s speech led to an obvious euphoric response from GOP delegates hungering for a return to the more plain spoken style of the Goldwater-Reagan era. That was likely obvious even to those of the Republican Party who detest Trump and his style. That would include two former Republican Presidents Bush, family member Jeb, and a host of other vanquished opponents. Trump repudiated much of the “globalism” for which the Bush family is now, fairly or not, associated, to wildly cheering delegates.
But waiting in the wings is the most skilled political family in modern U.S. history. Bill and Hillary Clinton are not likely to allow their convention to be plagued by petty charges of plagiarism or lighting backdrops on stage that fail to work at critical moments. And by the time they hit their stride, the Democrats will have torn Trump’s speech to shreds with not one, but two presidents (former and current) happily singing the praise of Secretary Clinton in unison.
A stark contrast to a GOP convention that once again kept up the notion that “Republicans kill their own, while Democrats heal to own.”
If he survives to win in November it will be greatly due to his own determination and the star power of his family (something the media would be touting were Trump a Democrat). Were it not for the likes of Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, and a solid choice for VP in Mike Pence, Trump would have appeared to be holding not a convention, but a wake.
But Trump’s speech, designed to cover more bases than both New York MLB teams combined, had the energy of a Trump rally which, as they say in the South “is what brung him here.”
It also had the discipline that will be a necessity if Trump is to overcome a jealous GOP establishment and zealous Democratic juggernaut to actually take that “oath of office” he so often eluded to. That in a speech I would grade a solid and surprising “A” performance.
But I would be shocked in Hillary Clinton does not match that performance and mark next week. And that would lead us to the debates…A subject for another day.
Matt Towery is Chairman of InsiderAdvantage and the analyst/pollster for numerous FOX affiliates this year, including FOX5 Atlanta and FOX13 Tampa Bay. As a side note, before his years as an elected official turned businessman and author, he served in the early 1980s as speechwriter for candidate turned U.S. Senator Mack Mattingly and as political debate advisor for a then-freshman Congressman– Newt Gingrich. He lives in Saint Petersburg, Fl and Atlanta, Ga where he is a member of the Hall, Booth, Smith law firm.