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Opinion Reince Priebus’s very, very bad convention

Whichever Democratic adviser decided to have the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan appear at the Democratic National Convention earned his or her place in the political convention hall of fame (if such a thing existed). His parents’ appearance will certainly go down as one of the most influential — and if Donald Trump loses — most consequential by a non-candidate in political convention history. Even apart from that, it is obvious that only one party did itself any good with its four-day stretch of convention coverage.

Gallup reports:

Americans are evenly divided on whether they view the Democratic Party more favorably (44%) or less favorably (42%) after the party’s national convention last week. However, their ratings of the Republican Party after the GOP convention two weeks ago were significantly worse, with 35% saying they viewed the party more favorably and 52% less favorably. . . . The 2016 Republican convention is the first after which a greater percentage of Americans have said they are “less likely” rather than “more likely” to vote for the party’s presidential nominee.

Well, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus sure knows how to put on a show, hmm? It’s worse than that actually:

Overall, 44% of Americans gave Clinton’s speech a positive rating, saying it was either “excellent” or “good.” That is significantly higher than the 35% who rated Trump’s speech positively. In fact, as many Americans rated Trump’s speech negatively, saying it was “poor” or “terrible.”
Trump’s speech was rated less positively than any Gallup has asked about since 1996. The positive rating of Clinton’s speech is slightly below the historical average of 47%, but similar to Barack Obama’s 2012 acceptance speech.

To recap then: The Republican convention left the voters thinking less well of the party and the candidate. “Gallup tracking finds Clinton’s post-convention favorable rating at 44%, up six percentage points from mid-July. That is much higher than Trump’s 32% favorable rating in the days after the Democratic convention.” Perhaps it would have been better to have had no convention at all.

The impact of the conventions is reflected in post-convention horse race polls. The CBS poll reports: “Hillary Clinton has received a bump in support after the Democratic convention and has now pulled ahead of Donald Trump. Forty-six percent of voters nationwide say they’ll vote for Clinton in November, while 39 percent say they’ll back Trump. The race was tied last week after the Republican convention.”

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Several caveats should apply. Most importantly, we don’t know how long Clinton’s bump will last and whether, thanks to the Khan controversy, it will continue to grow. (The CBS poll cut off the day after Trump’s disastrous interview attacking Mrs. Khan surfaced.) We don’t know if the latest outrage, coupled with Trump’s failure to appreciate that Crimea is part of Ukraine and has been overrun by Russia and his invitation for Russian hacking, will prompt any elected Republicans to withdraw support and/or persuade donors to seal shut their wallets for the remainder of the presidential race.

What we do know is that the Democrats were able to demonstrate to voters that they are optimistic, hawkish, inclusive and religious — and the Republicans under Trump aren’t any of those things. This is the direct result of Priebus and the rest of the GOP hierarchy embracing Trump with no commitment to GOP principles and no realistic possibility that he would miraculously turn “presidential.” It’s the result of a convention that was dominated by Trump and blood relatives but little star power or positive message. They handed over the keys to the party and the Trumpkins have proceeded to trash the place.

We also know that a number of GOP Senate contenders are already distancing themselves from Trump, setting up a more vivid ticket-splitting appeal (“Don’t give Hillary a blank check“) in the fall. In other words, the best hope many Republicans will have to keep their jobs is to repudiate Trump and his entire ethos.

When you have one party enthusiastically embracing its nominee and the themes highlighted at its convention and the other running in the opposite direction, you know one convention was a bust. In other words, Priebus managed to run a much worse convention than Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who had to resign in disgrace. Think about that when you contemplate the future of the current RNC.