For a time, we all had high hopes for this Republican convention. Maybe it wouldn’t be the usual snooze-a-thon. Maybe it would fulfill the fantasy of all political junkies: an open convention!
That would mean fireworks. A dump-Trump move. A party divided. Angry protests. A whiff of violence in the hall. Bitter fights between Establishment Republicans and Trump Republicans.
No such luck. But, still, this won’t be your father’s Republican convention.
After all, it’s “The Donald Trump Show.”
The question will be whether Trump, a master at branding and reputation-building, can rebrand himself and rebuild his reputation enough to have a shot to win in November.
On today’s market, Trump is unelectable. He long ago lost the votes of blacks and Hispanics. He scares young voters. He alienated huge numbers of Independent women, who are the key swing voters. He left a big chunk of traditional Republican voters debating whether to sit this one out, vote for Gary Johnson or even do the unthinkable and vote for Hillary Clinton.
Now he has four nights of national television to prove himself.
Now he’s the Apprentice, and we decide whether he’s hired or fired.
How he manages his convention – and how he manages a party that still isn’t really his – will tell Americans a lot about whether they can picture President Trump sitting in the Oval Office.
It will partly be how his running mate Mike Pence looks to the world.
It will partly be what other Republicans say – or don’t say – when they get their turn at the microphone.
It will partly be how Trump’s supporters look and act during the convention. Do they look like good solid folks? Or do they scare the living hell out of the rest of us?
It above all will be how Trump’s acceptance speech goes Thursday night.
It surely will be better TV than the last two Republican conventions, starring John McCain and Mitt Romney. The only excitement at either one was Sarah Palin, and you know how that turned out.
So now, live from Cleveland, it’s The Donald Trump Show!
Gary Pearce is a veteran N.C. Democratic strategist. He and Republican strategist Carter Wrenn are writing about the national political conventions for the Observer. They blog at talkingaboutpolitics.com.