CLEVELAND – Just over a year after Donald J. Trump descended his iconic escalator in Manhattan to announce he was joining a packed field of political veterans seeking the Republican nomination for president, the New York billionaire completed an astonishing and historic political ascent Thursday night in Cleveland, officially claiming his party’s nomination — and declaring to struggling Americans, “I am your voice.”
Trump electrified the convention crowd on closing night, with chants of “U.S.A.” frequently breaking out as the nominee vowed to put “America first.” He used the speech to align his campaign squarely on the side of struggling American workers of all political stripes, as he moved to broaden his appeal beyond the Republican base that largely decided the primaries.
“Every day I wake up determined to deliver for the people I have met all across this nation that have been ignored, neglected and abandoned. … These are people who work hard but no longer have a voice,” Trump said. “I am your voice.”
And he delivered a tough law-and-order message throughout, declaring from the convention floor in Cleveland, “Safety will be restored” under a Trump presidency.
“America will finally wake up in a country where the laws of the United States are enforced,” Trump vowed.
He described the nation at a “moment of crisis,” citing terror attacks, violence against police and “chaos in our communities” including rising inner-city crime. “I will restore law and order to our country,” he said, while vowing to crack down on illegal immigration.
Trump’s highly anticipated speech -- at 75 minutes, the longest convention acceptance address since 1972 -- amounts to his closing argument before Clinton and the Democrats get their turn starting Monday in Philadelphia. As much as Republican leaders bashed the presumptive Democratic nominee in Cleveland, Democrats are likely to be just as tough on the Republicans at their convention.
The next big step for Clinton, though, will be to name her running mate, a decision that could come as early as Friday.
But before the attention turns to Clinton, Trump got in his final shots.
The businessman closed his address by turning rival Clinton’s “I’m with her” campaign slogan on its head.
“I choose to recite a different pledge. My pledge reads, I’m with you,” Trump said.
He blasted Clinton’s foreign policy record as secretary of state – citing the bloody tumult in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Libya – saying her legacy is “death, destruction, terrorism and weakness” and a “change in leadership” is needed.
“Hillary Clinton’s legacy does not have to be America’s legacy,” he said.
And defending his aversion to political correctness, he said for anyone who wants to hear “the corporate spin, the carefully crafted lies, and the media myths, the Democrats are holding their convention next week -- go there. But here, at our convention, there will be no lies.”
Trump also cycled through his campaign promises, including the controversial calls to build a southern border wall and “immediately suspend immigration from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism until such time as proven vetting mechanisms have been put in place.”
He added, “We don’t want them in our country.”
Trump vowed as well to protect LGBTQ citizens from terrorism like the Orlando club shooting. In a moment that allowed him to show his gay-rights support, Trump thanked the crowd for cheering that line: “It is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said.”
The speech caps a dramatic convention week marked by powerful displays of party unity but also tensions, flaring most recently when Ted Cruz withheld his endorsement Wednesday night.
The omission prompted boos from pro-Trump delegates, and the unrest continued into Thursday, when the Texas senator defended his decision before an audience of Texas delegates clearly divided over Cruz’s handling of the convention speech.
At the same time, Trump’s newly anointed running mate Mike Pence deftly set the stage for Trump’s big night, effectively making the conservative case for the billionaire businessman in his own nomination acceptance speech on Wednesday. The choice of Pence – a classic conservative with Midwestern roots – helped bring various factions of the party together even before the convention began.
Despite the Cruz commotion, top party leaders from House Speaker Paul Ryan to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus worked to heal divisions in the party over the course of the Cleveland coming-together.
“He’s brought millions of new voters to our party because he’s listening to Americans” anxious about the state of the country, Priebus said. “With Donald Trump and Mike Pence, America’s ready for a comeback after almost a decade of Clinton-Obama failures.”
Priebus claimed Republicans are the party with new ideas, while Democrats are the “same party doing the same old thing,” trotting out the “same old candidate” next week.
“Let’s stay united as Republicans,” Priebus said.
Members of Trump’s family also spent the week giving voters a glimpse into the tycoon’s more personal side, with daughter Ivanka introducing her father Thursday night. Appealing to women, she praised the businessman’s record supporting female employees at his organization. And touting her dad as a tireless fighter who can bring his work ethic and aptitude to the nation’s highest office, Ivanka asked all voters to put their faith in him.
“For more than a year, Donald Trump has been the people’s champion, and tonight he is the people’s nominee,” she said. “… When my father says he’ll make America great again, he will deliver.”