Thursday 26 April 2018

Trumps star as famous names fail to show up

Convention-goers show a Trump banner at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, last night. Photo: Reuters
Convention-goers show a Trump banner at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, last night. Photo: Reuters

Shona Murray

Donald Trump was yesterday keeping the Republican convention in the family as the four-day event opened in Cleveland, with a speaking line-up dominated not by the traditional political big-hitters, but the billionaire's wife and children.

This week's four-day jamboree will see Melania Trump, the mogul's wife, speak on a night dedicated to national security and Tiffany Trump, his youngest daughter and an Instagram star, give a presentation on jobs.

The goal, according to Paul Manafort, Mr Trump's campaign manager is both to show how "ordinary people" are affected by current White House policies and to "help the American people understand more about Donald Trump the man".

National conventions, where a party chooses its nominee for the president, are usually a platform for the chosen candidate to showcase his most powerful political allies. In 2012, Mitt Romney brought known Republican stalwarts such as Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, to testify to his foreign policy and national security credentials.

This year, that responsibility is slated to fall in large part to Mrs Trump, a Slovenian jewellery designer and former model.

Last night Mrs Trump was set to give the headline speech during an evening whose theme is "making America safe again".

Then, on Tuesday, Tiffany Trump will give a prime-time address during an event entitled "Make America Work Again". Aged 22, Tiffany recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a double major in sociology and urban studies.

She is a fashion model and singer who has become an internet sensation.

Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr, Mr Trump's two sons are also slated to give speeches, as is Ivanka Trump, Mr Trump's other daughter.

Melania and Ivanka are said have been moderating presences throughout his campaign, encouraging, Mr Trump has said, the eccentric and bloviating real estate mogul to "act more presidential". Their presence at the convention will, his campaign hopes, help show Mr Trump's "softer" side.

At an early pro-Trump gathering in a park, his supporters seemed happy with the candidate's decision to give speaking spots to his family.

Nancy Mathis (66) a retired college teacher wearing a "Hillary For Prison" T-shirt, said: "I can't wait to see his kids and Melania speaking. I like his family. Ivanka's my favourite. I think he'll take tips from his kids and that's good."

In April, Mr Trump vowed to "put some showbiz" into the convention because he didn't want people "falling asleep". However, famous figures have not materialised.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump's anointment as GOP nominee for president is likely to go ahead without disruption from members of the so-called 'Never Trump' band of disgruntled party aficionados who deem his candidacy a liability.

However, his campaign team is now acutely aware it has a job to do, not only in swaying undecided voters who are unsure of his credentials, but also in uniting a fractured party that has alienated some moderate members.

"A number of Republican leaders" are talking about "the need to pull the party together", admitted newly appointed campaign strategist Mr Manafort. The next few days are about showing the members who Mr Trump "really is". This will "help bring the party together", Mr Manafort said in Cleveland.

"We're going to show the other side of him", he said.

While the pageantry and spectacle of the convention is driven with unmistakable enthusiasm from die-hard members in spite the GOP's disjointed state, there's no hiding from the fact that some of the most important party stalwarts remain absent from the convention.

None of the senior members of the Bush family are present, including either of the former presidents, or former candidate Jeb Bush. Also notable by their absence are past nominees Mitt Romney and Senator John McCain.

Governor of Ohio John Kasich is also refusing to join the convention, instead choosing to host a number of private events around the city.

Gun violence

Mr Romney's niece and chair of the Republican party in Michigan, Ronna Romney, said that she's still trying to persuade her uncle to declare his support for Mr Trump.

"I'm still working on it", but he "has not" agreed to endorse Mr Trump, she added

The early part of the convention was initially dampened somewhat by the deaths of three more police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but the Trump campaign has used the latest rise in gun violence as an opportunity to change tack towards a 'law and order' focus to the campaign in light of both domestic and international security concerns. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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