Winners and losers from Day 2 of the Republican National Convention:
1. Donald Trump Jr. (and Tiffany Trump)
We are known by the company we keep – or the children we raise – and Donald Trump’s children did well by him on Tuesday. America has seen very little of them until now and they made a strong debut. After casting New York’s delegate vote that officially made his father the nominee, Donald Trump Jr. took the stage and owned the arena. He combined a personal touch – giving a glimpse of his father’s private side – with prescriptions on issues, such as school choice, that revved the crowd and suggested he had a firm understanding of public policy. Like all speakers, he read his speech from a TelePrompTer, but you wouldn’t know it. The boy has a bit of politician in him himself. That his speechwriter may have cribbed from himself put only the slightest tarnish on things after the fact.
2. Paul Ryan
The Speaker of the House has been walking a tightrope. He seeks to support his party’s nominee without giving Trump a full bear hug. He walked that line well in primetime on Tuesday, firing up the crowd while maintaining his serious-minded dignity. He acknowledged the party’s tensions, and referred to Lincoln and Reagan almost as much as Trump. He also criticized Hillary Clinton and Democrats without looking rabid. Don’t be surprised if he is the first Speaker of the House since James K. Polk to become president.
3. Hillary Clinton
The bloodthirsty crowd loves the never-ending attacks on her. They love chanting that she should be wearing stripes, in prison. But to much of America, it’s over the top. Like Ryan did, Republicans can draw distinctions with the Democrats without coming across as an unhinged mob. As Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake tweeted: “Hillary Clinton now belongs in prison? C’mon. We can make the case that she shouldn’t be elected without jumping the shark.”
Tuesday’s theme was supposed to be “Make America Work Again.” You wouldn’t have known it from listening to the floor speeches. There was an incessant prosecution of Clinton, but precious little about the economy, and even less about specific policy proposals the party would pursue if Donald Trump were president.
2. Melania Trump.
The day’s narrative was filled with banter about how her Monday night speech was plagiarized from one Michelle Obama delivered in 2008. Rarely has someone’s star risen and fallen so quickly. After giving a speech that warmed the hall and sparked nearly unanimous praise, Melania Trump fell victim to amateur hour in her husband’s campaign.
3. Ben Carson.
Even conservative Republicans were scratching their heads over the neurosurgeon’s late-night speech. Lucifer? Carson cemented his status as oddity in the 2016 milieu.