Campaign 2016

Your cheat sheet to the final night of the Republican convention

Donald Trump makes it official. During the convention, we asked readers to react to some key statements with the emoji of their choice. We are no longer taking reactions, but you can read the highlights below.

Your cheat sheet from the final night of the Republican convention

Donald Trump makes it official

By Amber PhillipsJuly 22 12:40 a.m.

I know we said on Tuesday night it was official. But now it’s really official. On Thursday, Donald J. Trump accepted Republicans’ nomination for president. His transformation from a joke one year ago to the star of the Republican Party is now complete.

Trump gave an hour-long acceptance speech that was heavy on negativity, peppering in statistics aiming to show how our economy is struggling, the danger of violent illegal immigrants and the spread of terrorism. Foreshadowing the negative campaign to come, Trump spent most of his time making the case against Hillary Clinton.

The message was clear: If you are afraid, Donald Trump is your candidate. If you’re interested to hear more of what he said, we annotated and did some stat-checking of his speech.

It was a speech most definitely written by his advisers, nothing like the off-the-cuff, sometimes- rambling, yet always entertaining rallies he’s spent the past year giving across the country. And Trump may have been better off for it.

But Trump’s new title did not go down smoothly with everyone in Cleveland. About halfway so through his speech, a Code Pink protester interrupted it from the rafters above. Trump stood stone faced while security escorted her out, urging the audience to watch along.

"I have no patience with intolerance," he said.

It was a blimp. Not even a determined protester could take away the fact this night was Trump’s night.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a political convention without some notable moments leading up to Trump’s.

Libertarian PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel made history by becoming the first speaker at a Republican convention to say this:

He’s not the first openly gay speaker at a GOP convention, but he is the first to talk publicly about it on stage. It was a small moment in the heated gay rights debate, but it was especially  notable after a week of Republican leaders going out of their way to mention gay rights in their speeches.

On the other side of the political spectrum, Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio had his moment in the spotlight, too. And it’s no coincidence he spoke on the last night of the convention, a night usually reserved for its headliners. Arpaio is known for his hard-line immigration rhetoric. So is Trump.

And there were the requisite weird, water cooler-made moments too. Most of them came from LA businessman Tom Barrack, whose unhinged speech included this beauty:  “A diamond necklace on a gazelle of globalism.” We can’t even put that into context because, well, we can’t. Just watch it.

But one of the best performances of the night — really of the convention — came from Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump. She’s been acting as a surrogate spouse of sorts this entire campaign, and she introduced her father Thursday with a mix of poise, softness and fire that suggests what we’ve thought all along: She has natural talent.  

Plus, she was one of the few this entire convention to make a personal appeal to women, and it seemed to work. The crowd cheered loudly when she talked about how her father supports equal pay for women — traditionally a Democratic rallying cry.

We can talk about Ivanka Trump’s future later. For now, let’s reflect on her father’s moment, a moment very few of us saw coming, a moment that has the potential to change the way we think about politics here in America, a moment I’ll certainly remember, mostly because it was a moment that was remarkable it happened at all.

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Your cheat sheet to night three of the Republican convention

And the speech that threatened to tear it apart

By Amber PhillipsJuly 21 12:20 a.m.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was welcomed so warmly onto the stage in Cleveland by Republican delegates, he had to wait for the applause to die down before giving his speech. Some 2,000 words later — as it became clear he had no intention of endorsing Donald Trump — he was booed off it.

To add insult to injury, Donald Trump upstaged Cruz by entering the convention hall just as Cruz was wrapping up his speech. By the end, you could barely hear Cruz over the booing and jeering and chants of "We want Trump!" and general commotion and neck-craning to see what was going on.

Whatever wind was in Cruz’s sails got knocked out by a room of unhappy Trump supporters. It was a stunning turn of events, unprecedented in modern convention history, really, that laid bare for the world to see just how deep the party schisms are — a runner up pointedly refusing to endorse his party’s nominee at the convention, and the crowd booing him for it. Most importantly, it suggests the party is going to need much more than four days of pageantry to heal.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) tried to do damage control shortly afterward, but the damage was done:

Let’s hit pause on that spectacle to briefly recap the rest of the night’s speeches: Eric Trump, following his brother’s terrific performance Tuesday night, lived up to expectations and did fine.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker excitedly spoke in front of some kind of barn/field backdrop.

Lynne Patton, the vice president of the Eric Trump Foundation and a family assistant, praised Trump while saying some things that seemed out of place at the Republican convention.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) split the difference between the no-win decision for him to attend vs. not attend and addressed the convention with a safe, pre-recorded video.

Oh, and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) accepted the party’s nomination for vice president and joked that no one at the convention hall knew who he was, which polling suggests is true.

But all that pales in comparison to the drama and political impact of Cruz’s speech gone awry, about as dramatic a moment in national politics as you can get. The situation apparently got even more tense after he left the stage:

To be clear, we weren’t necessarily expecting Cruz to endorse Trump, given the primary ended with Trump linking Cruz’s father to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and Cruz in return calling him "a pathological liar” and a “narcissist” who was proud of being a “serial philanderer."

In fact, we were fully expecting Cruz to give a speech that was very much self serving, since all signs point to his plans to run for president in 2020 even if Trump wins in November.

But even some of his supporters thought Wednesday would be the night Cruz at least makes the case for Trump for the sake of his party. Instead he said this:

And now, instead of headlines about how three failed 2016 presidential candidates put the past behind them Wednesday on behalf of the party, the political world will be wondering whether Cruz did the right thing for himself, for his political future and for the party by refusing to get behind the nominee.

All eyes turn to Trump, who, when he accepts the nomination Thursday, has what seems like an impossible task of soothing his own agitated base while wooing a watching, skeptical nation. The off-the-stage drama — from Melania Trump’s plagiarized speech, to the number of Republican lawmakers who didn’t come to Cleveland to support him — has threatened to overshadow just how difficult a task Trump has on Thursday.

But the revived Trump-Cruz feud served to remind us of the stakes, particularly just how divided the Republican party still is.


Your cheat sheet from night two of the Republican convention

 Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton. Oh and Donald Trump won the nomination.

By Amber PhillipsJuly 19 11:42 p.m.

It's official. Thirteen months after he launched a campaign most of the political world laughed at,  Donald J. Trump is the Republicans' presidential nominee.

In the end, the #NeverTrump folks never had a shot. Against all odds — and political logic — this was Trump’s primary, and now it’s his presidential campaign to run as he sees fit. (Trump will formally accept the nomination Thursday, the last day of the convention.)

But just because a majority of Republican primary voters nominated Trump doesn’t mean the party establishment was happy about it. A few hours removed from Trump’s coronation, Republican leaders like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) hardly even mentioned Trump’s name in their speeches.

So what is there to talk about a political convention, if not the nominee? How about that other candidate in the race.

In fact, with the exception of Trump’s two children, most of Tuesday’s speakers focused almost exclusively on Hillary Clinton. Specifically, why she's not fit to be president. McConnell accused her of being willing to “say anything, do anything, and be anything to get elected president” and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) tried to turn the Quicken Loans Arena into a courtroom as he talked about her private email server and tenure as secretary of state.

Character assassinations of Clinton certainly got the crowd riled up:

But the way this convention is going, Republicans risk violating a general rule in politics: If you’re going to knock down your opponent, you need to show why your team can do a better job. We didn’t see that Tuesday night from the majority of speakers, who found it more convenient to attack Clinton's character than to praise Trump’s, perhaps a sign the party is still wary of its new nominee.

The exception was Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., who gave a more overtly political speech than family members are traditionally supposed to do, but who did make arguably the best case so far for his father by talking about the billionaire’s blue collar side.

Notice what we didn’t mention on Night Two? The Melania Trump Plagiarism Scandal of 2016. Remarkable similarities to her speech Monday and one Michelle Obama gave in 2008 dominated the news cycle all day Tuesday, of course, not helped by the Trump team’s various explanations for it. But each night of a convention is a fresh start, and this one started with Trump doing what few thought a brash billionaire and controversy magnet could do: winning a presidential nomination. Night two of the Republican convention will go in the history books of American politics.

And because so much happens at conventions off the stage — and sometimes on it — let’s end our recap with some of the night’s best outtakes. Let us know your reaction, and we’ll see you back here Wednesday for more emoji fun!

This is how delegates of Minnesota wanted to be remembered:


Your cheat sheet to night one of the Republican convention

Besides Donald Trump’s WWE-esque entrance, that is

By Amber PhillipsJuly 18 11:57 p.m.

We're one day and a dozen or so speeches in to this historic convention. Here's what you need to know:

The first showdown of the 2016 Republican National Convention came before most people had tuned in with a defiant stand against Donald Trump -- and the last one after most people had tuned out, with accusations Melania Trump cribbed a portion of Michelle Obama's 2008 speech.

Let's start with the first: Shortly after the convention officially got underway Monday afternoon, #NeverTrump forces took their last, desperate gasp by creating a commotion on the floor in hopes of embarrassingTrump.

We use the word "embarrass," because they'd already exhausted just about all of their procedural opportunities to try to stop him from getting the nomination. Their plan Monday was to force all of the states to, one by one, effectively announce their support for or opposition to Trump. Their goal was to demonstrate the divisive candidate doesn't have the support of a majority of Republicans in America.

The #NeverTrump forces didn't get the roll call vote they made so much noise about, but in a roundabout way, their mission succeeded: The first headlines out of the 2016 Republican National Convention were of Republicans shouting their dissatisfaction with the soon-to-be nominee. Not necessarily the message of party unity that convention organizers had hoped to convey.

The actual speeches Monday night -- a "Happy Days" star, a former Calvin Klein underwear model, a former Navy SEAL-- weren't that remarkable compared to past conventions, which in and of itself is notable, given the drama that went down hours earlier. Night one's speakers universally tried to make the case that Trump is a strong leader and that Hillary Clinton is unfit to be president.

Pat Smith said she blames Hillary Clinton “personally” for the death of her son Sean, who was killed in the 2012 Benghazi attacks. Smith was addressing the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 18. (The Washington Post)

Speaking of Clinton, one of the night's most emotional moments came early on, when Patricia Smith, the mother of one of the four Americans killed in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, in no uncertain terms blamed Clinton -- then secretary of state -- for the death of her son. It was a strong rebuke of Clinton right out of the gate.

Presidential candidate Donald Trump's wife Melania spoke at the Republican National Convention July 18. (The Washington Post)

But the night's headline speaker was someone we're not used to hearing a lot from: Melania Trump.

In her first big public speech of her husband's campaign, Trump's wife of more than a decade tried to present a kindler, gentler Trump -- and not-so-subtly rebut some of the biggest knocks against him.

Trump wants to help the poor, Melania Trump said. He loves his family. He supports all Americans, including African Americans and Hispanics. And he wants Christians, Jews and Muslims to get along, she said.

Melania's speech was generally well received, which is good because she might have had something to prove herself: A new Gallup poll indicates she'd be the least-liked potential first lady since 1992 and, you guessed it, Clinton.

But Melania Trump is now facing a fallout of a different kind over accusations she took word for word a portion of Michelle Obama's 2008 Democratic convention speech. Her husband has defended her, but as of Tuesday morning has yet to directly deny the plagiarism charges.

So what's the upshot after hours upon hours of pageantry? Well, we're left with a few questions, which I'll attempt to answer:

Did night one convince anyone who was skeptical of Trump to vote for him? I'd wager probably not.

Did it take a step toward party unity after an incredibly divisive campaign? Hard to say, especially given the roll call drama earlier.

Did it put on a show that will grab Americans' attention? Yes, but there have been bigger -- and Trump himself stole many moments himself with competing TV interviews and flashy entrances.

Do we have three more days of this? You bet! Stay tuned right here at The Washington Post for everything you need to know (and nothing more. It's going to be a long week for even the most ardent political fans.)