Is Trump's challenge to rally the base or the independents?

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," July 20, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


GOV. MIKE PENCE, REPUBLICAN VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It is such an honor to join your family and welcome you to Cleveland. We're excited to hear you address the nation tomorrow night. It's been exciting to hear from your family, more to come tonight. And I'm convinced that what begins in Cleveland will end in the White House!


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Indiana Governor Mike Pence officially becomes the vice presidential nominee, is introduced as such and speaks tonight to this convention. But there's another speaker tonight who may get a lot of attention, Ted Cruz.

Let's bring in our panel: syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer; Charles Hurt, political columnist for The Washington Times; A.B. Stoddard, associate editor and columnist at Real Clear Politics, and Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard. A.B., Ted Cruz, we still understand the Trump campaign has not seen this speech as of this hour. What about this, and is he going to take the spotlight or try?

A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL: Well, it's suspenseful, because he hasn't endorsed Donald Trump, and at a meeting today, a thank you gathering with supporters, he barely mentioned him. He said -- he used the word "the nominee" that people like to do when they don't want to say Trump's name. So I think everyone is on pins and needles in the Trump camp about what he is going to do to come out and say something supportive, something to unite the party. But of course, this is Ted Cruz's sort of debut for 2020 as well, working the delegates, working his supporters. He has already organized his team at home for another presidential run, and we know that's his goal. So there's much drama.

BAIER: But, you know, Steve, if he does that, much like Chris Christie did last convention, in which didn't really focus on Mitt Romney that much, it seemed. Isn't that a net negative for Cruz?

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: You know, I don't think it necessarily is. What Chris Christie did was focus on Chris Christie, not Mitt Romney. I think what we can expect from Ted Cruz is for Ted Cruz to focus on principles that conservatives share together, that Republicans share together. I think that's much more likely to be the direction that he takes.

There's been some speculation that Cruz would hurt his presidential chance it is he doesn't offer a full-throated embrace of Donald Trump in his speech tonight. I guess I just don't buy that argument. It was a bitter primary. Donald Trump made fun of Ted Cruz's wife, spread rumors about his father. I think it would almost be odd the Ted Cruz did endorse Donald Trump.

BAIER: All right, Charlie, the tweet came out today from Donald Trump, "The media is spending more time doing a forensic analysis of Melania's speech than the FBI spent on Hillary's e-mails." And that is what you hear in this convention hall as well as on social media. But now there is another element that's grabbing everybody's attention, and that is this adviser who said that people who commit treason are supposed to be executed. I think Hillary Clinton committed treason. Now the Secret Service is investigating.

CHARLES HURT, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: Certainly we would call that an unforced error on the part of the Trump surrogate or Trump supporter. I think the campaign is trying to rightly distancing themselves from the guy.

In terms of "Melania-gate," you know, it's such a great example of why if there's anybody that people hate more than politicians, it's the media. You know, this was something that -- it was not good, it was -- you certainly don't want to be lifting lines of the biggest speech of the night from another candidate --

BAIER: By the way, that's the guy, the adviser.

HURT: -- eight years ago. But my goodness, you literally would have thought that somebody had been shot the way the amount of media attention that thing got. Of course, it turns out to be a fairly benign explanation for how it happened. Again, it was not good, but the lines that were lifted were political pabulum. And you would have thought it was something very serious. Meanwhile, we had a cop that was shot yesterday and died. And, you know, if the media spent as much time concerned about something like that, which does touch on politics very much, I think that they would have a lot more credibility with people.

BAIER: I referenced it earlier, but I wanted to play this sound from the White House briefing and Josh Earnest today.


JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The fact that Mrs. Trump received such warm applause and such a strong review of her speech based on reflection of the same kinds of values that were included in Mrs. Obama's speech, I think that's an indication that the country has a lot of common ground even in spite of the political divisions that are on display at the convention.


BAIER: Charles, that's essentially what Dr. Ben Carson told me the other day on the convention floor.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: That was a beautifully spun answer, by the way. Makes him look good and shiny when there's a lot of not good appearances going on.

I think execution is slightly over the top. But I would point out that yesterday, during the speech of Christie, a crowd of several thousand people here began shouting about Hillary Clinton, lock her up. Now, I can understand you want to rally the base, but if you're trying to appeal to the 17 remaining Americans who are undecided, that's not the way you want to go. If you're going to unite the party and unite the country, which is what people are looking for, that is not a good way to present --

BAIER: Charles, let me say, in Philadelphia, don't you expect there's going to be a whole slew of speakers who go directly after Donald Trump and every aspect of Donald Trump?

KRAUTHAMMER: Of course they will. But I don't know that I've ever seen a crowd of this size calling for the other side's presidential candidate to be jailed. I will agree that some of that chanting was sort of good- natured, over the top stuff that was done sort of half-heartedly. But there was some malice in that, and I think that's one thing with the execution thing, and we saw it in a lot of the Trump rallies. It's something the Trump campaign has to work on to try to diminish or to tamp down --

BAIER: Understood --

KRAUTHAMMER: Because it just looks bad for them.

BAIER: Is there a challenge to rally and unify the base or is it to reach out to those independents? Is it to rally the "Hillary for prison" sign in the front yard people, or is it to rally the independents who are going to sway in some swing state?

HAYES: I think the job is a little of both. I think we're going to see Mike Pence try to do some of that tonight. I think they need to reach out to people who are not traditional Republicans, but he also needs to fire up the Republican base and people who have questions or concerns about Donald Trump as the commander in chief.

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