I came to Cleveland believing that the whole notion of party unity was overrated.
Sure, the media would obsess on all the GOP big shots who were blowing off the convention. But how much would voters care that the Bushes and Marco and McCain and Romney weren’t showing up?
Donald Trump ran against the Republican establishment and whipped the other 16 candidates. He’s an insurgent who doesn’t embrace some of the party’s conservative principles and has some crossover appeal to Democrats. Of course this was never going to be four days of air kisses and hand-holding.
But to the extent that the media are focused on the Trump campaign’s spats with Ted Cruz and John Kasich, it’s diverting the media spotlight that otherwise would be focused on the Trump campaign’s message.
Cruz knew exactly what he was doing in delivering a stemwinder that failed to include any hint of an endorsement. I mean, vote your conscience? The senator held a presser this morning and the cable networks took it live.
Cruz fiercely defended himself, but there’s a reason he has few friends in Washington. If he’s still mad at Trump over comments about his wife and father, then why agree to give a prime-time speech at Trump’s convention? And what about that support-the-nominee pledge?
The Trump folks were livid, even though they’d seen the speech in advance, and if anything it created a little wave of sympathy for the nominee. But the flap deepened the media narrative that Republican disunity is on display in Cleveland.
The same goes for the feud with Kasich, who refused to show up at the convention being held in his home state. It didn’t help matters when Trump campaign czar Paul Manafort called Kasich “petulant” and an embarrassment to the party.
All the more ironic, then, that Robert Draper reported in the New York Times that a Trump operative had essentially offered Kasich the VP slot, saying he could be in charge of domestic AND foreign policy while Trump concentrated on making America great again.
Trump’s speech will ultimately be the biggest story coming out of Cleveland. But Cruz, Kasich and Melania’s plagiarized speech, even if overplayed by the press, has muddied the nominee’s story line.