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Six takeaways from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland

REUTERS/Mike Segar
The Trump and Pence families joining nominee Donald Trump on the stage following his Thursday night speech.

The Donald Trump show has officially left Cleveland.

Instead of a fully unified party, the Republican National Convention left in its wake a somewhat fractured GOP, controversial rhetoric, and at least one really bad case of norovirus.

The week saw the final death knell of the #NeverTrump movement, a surreal non-endorsement speech from the nomination runner-up, Sen. Ted Cruz, and chants to lock up Hillary Clinton, all culminating in a winding Trump speech that hit on his typical themes of immigration, trade deals, and Clinton.

More so than in years past, Minnesota Republicans were bit players. The group of 73 delegates and alternate delegates spent the week on a far corner of the arena floor; for the first time since 2000, no Minnesotan took the center stage to address the convention and the nation.

In a relatively quiet convention year for Minnesotans — and a relatively wild one by national standards — what takeaways are there for the GOP in the North Star State?

1. Minnesotans don’t like Trump that much…

It’s not news that Minnesota Republicans haven’t enthusiastically boarded the Trump train. Very few among the group of 73 delegates and alternate delegates originally supported him; most are supporters of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Even on Thursday, some delegates were still nursing wounds over the rules fight earlier in the week, in which GOP leadership blocked procedural measures preferred by conservative activists, and shut down any talk of a push to unbind delegates from the candidates they were pledged to.

In his prime-time address to the convention on Wednesday, Cruz did not officially endorse Trump, igniting the Trump crowd’s anger and prompting a hail of boos at the Texas senator.

But many in the Minnesota delegation applauded Cruz as he implored Republicans to “vote their conscience,” a phrase that has become a dog whistle among Never-Trumpers in the GOP. And as Cruz defended himself from criticism on Thursday — even from his home-state delegation — some Minnesotans continued to applaud his stand.

As Trump delivered his address on Thursday night, there was relatively less enthusiasm in the Minnesota corner of the floor than among other delegations, and some delegates told MinnPost afterward that they still weren’t quite sold on the billionaire.

From the get-go, it was clear that Trump has much more work to do to win over die-hard Minnesota conservatives, and despite the best efforts of party leaders, that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

2. …and the party knows it.

Over the course of the week, it was hard to escape the notion that the Minnesota delegation was getting the short end of the stick from the national GOP.

For starters, the Minnesota delegation was relegated to the back row of the convention seating chart, in a corner of the Quicken Loans Arena, close to a warren of TV set-up rigs and a tall, blue, tower-like structure for photographers.

It afforded distant and off-center sightlines to the main stage — the equivalent of baseball seats that are simultaneously in the bleachers and behind a pole.

Hotel placement, decided by a party committee and sometimes considered a barometer for how favored or important a state is, was also not kind to Minnesota: the delegation was placed in a hotel in the suburban town of Mentor, 30 miles outside of Cleveland.

Beyond that, the lineup of speakers that addressed Minnesotans at the daily delegation breakfasts was hardly star-studded.

While the delegation from neighboring Wisconsin was treated to Speaker Paul Ryan (a Wisconsin native, of course), and Iowa got Newt Gingrich, the Minnesota delegation heard from a North Carolina congressman, a top official at the National Rifle Association, and a former U.S. ambassador to Peru in the 1980s.

Their biggest get was supposed to be John Bolton, who briefly served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush, but is mostly known for his hard-line hawkish outlook and his impressive mustache.

In the end, it was too good to be true: Bolton, the star headliner, canceled at the last minute.

The Minnesota Republican delegation may not have liked the state of affairs, but they understood it. Swing states typically get preferential treatment, and Minnesota has been reliably blue in presidential elections since 1972. States that have been friendly to the nominee get treated friendly, too — and Minnesota is hardly Trump territory.

3. Never Trump couldn’t cut it

It was never really clear how much influence the vocal faction of the GOP that openly rejects Trump was going to have at the convention.

Reports leading up to the week of the RNC made it seem as if that faction had the numbers to force, at the very least, a roll call vote on the rules package approved by a party committee last week.

On Monday, a petition circulated the convention, with delegates from Alaska, Minnesota, Utah, and elsewhere signing in support of that roll call.

In about 15 minutes, after an intense vote-whipping effort from the Trump camp, that effort was crushed. After, one Minnesota delegate tweeted, “The people of this convention were just steamrolled. Power grab by the RNC and Trump.”

It turned out that NeverTrump was easier to stop than perhaps some had anticipated, but it set the tone for a convention that never quite felt good for some the most Trump-skeptical in the GOP ranks.

4. No street fight in Cleveland

While there was talk of a revolt inside the convention hall, there was also talk of a battle on the streets of Cleveland: ahead of the convention, anti-Trump protesters vowed to make their presence known, while Trump supporters vowed to “protect” supporters of the nominee.

That the weeks before the convention saw killings of police, and killings of black men by police, exacerbated tensions, putting RNC organizers and Cleveland law enforcement on edge. Some feared a repeat of past violent conventions, like the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago.

Ultimately, protests were relatively sparse, peaceful, and generally non-disruptive. The one exception was a Wednesday event in which a few protesters began burning U.S. flags, causing police to shut off one entrance to the convention hall.

On Monday, a group of Minnesotans arrived in Cleveland after an overnight bus ride from the Twin Cities, primarily to protest Trump’s policies on immigration. They assembled, rallied for an hour or so, and marched peacefully through the streets of downtown before heading home.

5. Tom Emmer takes his moment

The freshman representative from the 6th District was Minnesota’s only member of Congress to attend the RNC.

Judging by his schedule, he made the most of it: Emmer was constantly on the move, running around the convention’s media row doing interviews, opening up a reception for Young Republicans, serving food at the Boys and Girls Club, and talking on a panel organized by the nonprofit group Global Citizen.

He had a moment — if only a brief one — in the national spotlight as he introduced the Minnesota delegation during Tuesday’s roll call.

Emmer’s week at the RNC culminated on a high note: on Thursday night, he and his wife joined Trump’s inner circle at their suite in the Quicken Loans Arena, perched off the convention floor in plush black chairs and a black dais with gold stars.

Emmer’s House colleagues from Minnesota, particularly Rep. Erik Paulsen, may have been better served by steering clear of the Trump Show in Cleveland. With his seat a virtual lock, and with political capital to build, it’s safe to say Emmer played his RNC cards well.

6. Democrats have a field day

Conventions present an opening for the rival party to counter-message and score political and fundraising points off of what’s said and done at their competitors’ confab.

As they did in 2012, Democrats set up “counter-convention” programming in Cleveland, and they acted like they had more than enough to work with: over the course of the Republicans’ four-day bash, the Clinton campaign and its allies slammed the rhetoric of RNC speakers and attendees, which often hewed closer to the kind of talk at an activist conference than a national party convention.

Democrats capitalized on RNC rhetoric about Clinton being arrested, jailed, or even killed in numerous TV hits and in apocalyptic fundraising emails sent to the party faithful.

Sen. Al Franken came to Cleveland on Thursday and denounced Trump as a bully, and said the politics of the RNC were more fitting for a “banana republic” than the United States.

Trump has been unapologetic about what has been said at the RNC, and closed the week on a defiant note — so the back-and-forth on display this week is, most likely, a good preview of what the general election might feel like as it heats up after the conventions conclude.

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Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 07/22/2016 - 09:13 am.

    The Trump campaign has brought us:

    The inciteful Trump, the swearing, vulgar Trump, the totally wrong Trump, the totally right Trump, the narcissistic Trump, the great father Trump, the off the script Trump, the on the, much maligned, teleprompter Trump, the embarrassed Trump, the conman Trump, the tea party Trump, the denial Trump, the off the rails Trump, the dysfunctional Trump, the uninformed Trump, the not in sync with his VP Trump, the not in sync with his campaign manager Trump, the unwilling to work with others Trump, the work around the law Trump, the dark view of America Trump, the racist Trump, the misogynistic Trump, the ly’in Trump, and many other versions of Trump.

    What version of Trump would America get should Trump win?
    At every opportunity for a president to speak there isn’t a prepared, by someone else, teleprompter speech. So we won’t get that Trump. The family side of his life definitely won’t be the Trump that America gets. That leaves the Trump America will get: Is the inciteful Trump, the swearing, vulgar Trump, the totally wrong Trump, the totally right Trump, the narcissistic Trump, the off the script Trump, the on the, much maligned, teleprompter Trump, the embarrassed Trump, the conman Trump, the tea party Trump, the denial Trump, the off the rails Trump, the dysfunctional Trump, the uninformed Trump, the not in sync with his VP Trump, the unwilling to work with others Trump, the work around the law Trump, the racist Trump, the misogynistic Trump, the not in sync with his cabinet Trump, the dark view of America Trump, the ly’in Trump, and many other versions of Trump.

    America can do better than Trump.

  2. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 07/22/2016 - 09:57 am.

    Have to admit that was an effective speech…

    …especially to people who don’t need to be bothered by facts.

    When Trump says that on day one of his presidency crime and violence will cease and people will be instantly safe I think the only way he could even begin to do that is by declaring martial law. He would suspend the constitution in order to save it. He’d fill our streets with soldiers who would start tracking down and rounding up Hispanics and busing them to Tijuana. Based on the rhetoric at the convention he would arrest Hillary Clinton and lock her up. Once he had her hidden let the waterboarding begin. Maybe he’d have their family executed as enemy agents. He has only promised to torture foreign nationals and murder their families so maybe I’m overdoing it. but I think it is a small leap of logic and he’d have a lot of support for it on day one from all the convention chanters and their ilk. I won’t go into any historical analogies for fear my post will be denied but I think the martial law thing is in keeping with his promises and personality. There are better analogies than Nixon who the national pundits are pushing now.

    I like how he is going to reduce the deficit to zero in four years while at the same time reducing taxes. He says all this seriously and his fans go crazy for it. He doesn’t leave any room for fudge factor or time factor. His statements are unequivocal. These things are obviously impossible to me, sort of like claiming Mexico will pay for his wall.

    Scares the heck out of me.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 07/22/2016 - 12:16 pm.

      On Deficits & The Economy

      Trump has seen how Walker promised 250K jobs as his signature issue, produced far fewer, and got enthusiastically re-elected. It’s one thing for people to buy that once, but Shrug and re-elect the guy, heck why shouldn’t Trump promise the moon. He can always blame it on the Obama Recession, which he magically started before his inauguration.

      HRC looks like a chump, always counseling, “We can’t dream to big, scale your vision back.”

    • Submitted by Mark Countryman on 07/24/2016 - 12:09 pm.

      re: Have to admit that it was an effective speech …

      Take comfort in the fact that 14 million supporters is only a small fraction of the voting population. Here’s the math: According to the 2015 Census, the population of the US numbers approximately 321.6 million people. According to voting statistics, there are 218,959,000 eligible voters, and 146,311,000 registered voters. According to the same source, the total number of voters in the 2012 Presidential election was 146,311,000; and that number is projected to increase by 10 million for the 2016 election. Hence if we project a 156.3 million voter turn-out (a conservative estimate): 14 million Trump supporters divided by 156.3 anticipated total voter turn-out = 14/156.3 = 0.08957, or 8.957%, rounded up to 9%.

      Thus, that cult of 14 million Trump supporters represents less than 10% of actual voters. Whew!

  3. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/22/2016 - 09:41 am.

    Takeaway:America is in


    America is in ruins.

    We have nothing to fear but everything.

    Trump is the answer. Only Trump.

  4. Submitted by John Ferman on 07/22/2016 - 10:49 am.

    Trump’s SCOTUS short list?

    Any guesses who Trump would put in Scalia’s seat?

    • Submitted by C.S. Senne on 07/22/2016 - 01:17 pm.

      Supreme Court appointment

      Trump loves Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, Alabama Senator, whose appointment years ago to the Federal Bench was rejected by the Senate. Good, old boy Jeff labeled the NAACP and the ACLU “unAmerican” and “Communist-inspired.” He said he “meant no harm” by the remarks…Seems to fit the Trump criteria for a Supreme Court justice pretty well.

  5. Submitted by Roy Everson on 07/24/2016 - 07:35 am.


    Takeaway #7

    Tom Emmer may keep his CD seat but will never win statewide Office, having become radioactive from his support of Trump. Pro-bigot, pro-demogogue = pro demise of political career.

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