At least two dozen corporations have decided to protect their brands and withhold their financial support from the potentially toxic 2016 Republican National Convention. At least as many Republican leaders, including the last two GOP nominees and Republican presidents, have decided they have to wash their hair or something and won’t be making it to Cleveland.
No matter. The GOP isn’t about what Republicans used to be. It’s about what Republicans are now, and that’s the party of Donald Trump.
What that means this week depends at least a little on your perspective. For some, Trump is a breath of fresh air whose blunt honesty is what this country needs. For others, he’s a crass blowhard. Either way, he says what he thinks, and this week, a lot of Republicans will be following his lead.
Which means, more than anything, that it will be a rough four days for Hillary Clinton. The question for Republicans: Will they know when to say when?
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In a way, this GOP convention will be like most every party convention. You try to persuade voters that their choice is between your likeable candidate and the other party’s dangerous opponent. But as with everything Trump, the formula will be ratcheted up a few levels, especially when it comes to Clinton.
A hint at what’s to come: The opening night reportedly will be devoted to Benghazi.
This is understandable. With a flawed candidate getting the GOP nomination, Republicans must convince voters that the alternative is even worse. House Speaker Paul Ryan likes to call it a “binary choice.” You can bet speakers this week will be less diplomatic.
Clinton, of course, has left herself vulnerable to questions about honesty and transparency. But there are risks in breaking out too many “Crooked Hillary” references or exploring her husband’s sex life, as the New York Times reports is on the convention agenda.
Going over the top might appeal to the base – and certainly, more Republicans need persuading this year – but it also could turn off moderates who are the true targets of party conventions.
Republicans don’t have a lot of choice given their candidate’s unfavorables, and the go-after-them approach has gotten Trump this far. But there’s usually a difference between general election and primary voters. We’ll see if Republicans decide to acknowledge it.