THE MORNING PLUM:

Donald Trump completed his takeover of the GOP last night, officially securing the nomination — on an evening, fittingly enough, that was ostensibly about the economy but devolved at times into angry chants about throwing Hillary Clinton in prison.

Such talk is common among Republicans and GOP-aligned media elites, of course. Much of the time it’s mainly about supplying care and feeding to a GOP base. But this time, the chants of “lock her up” hinted at something more. Tellingly, they came amid increasing signs that Republicans think they are going to lose this election, which suggests that this might also represent an effort — perhaps only intended at this point in the dimmest of ways — to delegitimize Clinton’s presidency in advance, should she win.

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Here’s Chris Christie, a man who once functioned as a real prosecutor, whipping up the audience into a frenzy by leading them in chants about how Clinton has been “guilty” of a whole litany of offenses as Secretary of State, most of them involving international decisions. This happened:

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Note that as the chants of “lock her up” intensified, Christie nodded along. He then concluded with: “Oh, believe me, we’re not done yet. The indictment is hardly complete.” Christie was probably referring there to the rest of his speech. But this came after Republicans spent the first two nights of their convention accusing Clinton of a variety of heinous offenses, on her emails, on Benghazi, and so forth. Last night, this also led last to chants of “lock her up,” as speakers assented from the stage.

A variety of investigations have failed to produce evidence of criminal behavior on Clinton’s part. In the context of these “lock her up” chants, then, this sort of assent from the convention speakers (seen in a more subtle form from Christie last night) comes across as an effort to keep hope alive — hope that, if necessary, can be sustained into a Clinton presidency.

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All of this prompted Senator Jeff Flake, who has not endorsed Trump, to dissent:

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But the rub here is that Republicans might not be able to make the case that Clinton shouldn’t be elected without jumping the shark. The New York Times reports today that leading GOP stars are already eying the 2020 election, and are using the convention to position themselves for it to an unusual extent. Why? Because party leaders are “openly skeptical” that Trump can beat Clinton.

As Brian Beutler argues, you can draw a line directly from Trump’s birtherism about Obama to the “lock her up” chants about Clinton. Both are about denying the fundamental legitimacy of the opposition’s electoral victories, or electoral viability, or even political aspirations. In this case, though, the de-legitimization is taking place in advance of a Clinton victory that many Republicans themselves now believe is likely.

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I don’t know if this is an intentional effort to lay the groundwork to undermine a Clinton presidency, or just a kind of coping mechanism that is evolving to soften the blow of a Clinton win — the idea being that even if she wins the presidency, she should not have, so on some level it doesn’t really represent a legitimate decision on the part of the American people. But either way, it already seems plausible that a sizable bloc of hard core GOP base voters will not accept a Clinton presidency as legitimate. Yes, this happens on both sides: Many Democrats came to feel the same way about George W. Bush’s presidency. But it’s remarkable how viscerally and visibly this is already on display at a convention that is supposed to be about making a proactive case for the GOP nominee that broadens his appeal among undecided voters.

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Research for the speech, it seems, drew them to the previous convention speeches delivered by candidates’ spouses. The Trump campaign declined to say who or how many senior campaign officials read or reviewed the speech. But when Ms. Trump and her staff had finished revising the speech, virtually all that remained from the original was an introduction and a passage that included the phrase “a national campaign like no other.”

So it may have either been a cut-and-paste error or an outright swipe, which nobody then caught (if they even tried). Trump runs a world class organization, believe me.

* TRUMP TEAM TRIES TO PIN BLAME ON HILLARY: Top Trump adviser Paul Manafort is now saying that the Clinton campaign was the first to draw attention to the apparent plagiarism, which shows Clinton is trying to take another woman down. But Glenn Kessler brings the facts:

No evidence has emerged that is the case; indeed, Manafort has offered no evidence. Instead, the striking similarities…appear to have been first noticed by a Twitter user named Jarrett Hill, who describes himself as a journalist and an interior designer…There appear to be no ties between Hill and the Clinton campaign.

Indeed, the Clinton camp actually took pains to lay low on this story, apparently on the theory that there’s no need to get involved when your opponent is imploding.

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* CLINTON SEEKS VEEP WITH NATIONAL SECURITY EXPERIENCE: Amy Chozick reports that the shortlist is narrowing:

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Clinton has [told] several potential running mates that she needs a No. 2 who would bring national security experience to the Democratic ticket. Mrs. Clinton’s shortlist includes James G. Stavridis, a retired four-star Navy admiral who served as the 16th supreme allied commander of NATO, and Senator Tim Kaine, a former Virginia governor who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

If so, this would be a bet that that this election will be about terrorism and law and order.

Kaine…and Vilsack share many professional and political attributes, notably their governing experience. Both fit Clinton’s ideal of low-key, loyal effectiveness, people who know both men said. Vilsack carries the additional quality of a long-standing personal friendship with Clinton.

Of course, Kaine has the added benefit of possibly helping in Virginia, which will be a key target for Clinton if Trump does end up doing very well in the Rust Belt.

* MIKE PENCE’S BIG NIGHT: Trump veep pick Mike Pence is set to speak tonight, and the First Read crew observes:

Thanks to a less-than-typical VP rollout, Pence probably has a more challenging task to sell himself — and Trump — to the American public in his speech tonight than his predecessors did in 2008 or 2012. Neither Sarah Palin nor Paul Ryan were overshadowed the way Trump overshadowed Pence when he formally unveiled him, speaking for 29 minutes before Pence got his chance to talk. Neither Palin nor Ryan got in 900 words in the first joint-ticket TV interview — compared with the presidential nominee’s 2,160 words — in what happened during Sunday’s Trump-Pence interview on “60 Minutes.”

Maybe Trump can broadcast remotely to the convention hall from Trump Tower, or call in to a network for a quick interview, while Pence is speaking. That would be huge!

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* ANOTHER POLL SHOWS RACE NARROWING: A new Reuters/Ipsos poll shows that Clinton leads Trump by 43-36 among likely voters nationally, which is down from 15 points earlier this month, but still represents a seven point advantage.

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That actually seems high — the polling averages put her up just under three points. but it is consistent with a three point race for some national polls to show a tie, and some a sizable lead, which is what we’ve been seeing.

A Republican who loses Ohio loses the presidency. This fall, and especially in October, the GOP presidential candidate will need a huge assist from the Republican power structure in Ohio. He simply has to have it. And at the moment it looks very much like that won’t happen….Kasich is truly popular here in Ohio. You know those moderate women suburban voters Republicans always wish they had more of? Kasich has them.

Don’t worry, the army of blue collar white men Trump mobilizes will be enough to win the state, and it’ll all be very terrific and wonderful, believe me.

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