The other reason is that Donald Trump Jr. brought something to the proceedings that no random avocado farmer or soap opera star could match: He's a Trump.
Donald Trump Sr. is new to this politics thing, as he likes to brag. He has the weird distinction of being relatively unknown despite being ubiquitous. He's always on TV but he rarely leaves home. He's constantly discussing his political views, but they're terrifically hard to pin down. He's regularly talking to the media, but his team has a reputation for ignoring requests for comment. McConnell and Ryan and certainly Sullivan don't know Trump as a person, really, and the non-Trumps who do come from outside the world of politics — and often from some position of subordination.
What's left are the Trumps themselves, a group which Donald had the foresight to make expansive. Four adult kids and three wives, one of whom got an invite. Melania Trump was the first Trump family member to step up to bat for The Donald, knocking a dribbler through the gap but getting called out for too much pine tar. Tiffany Trump, the youngest older Trump child, was second. She did fine.
Then came Donald Jr., who offered a portrait of his father as a sort of blue-collar billionaire.
His father, he said, "didn't hide out behind some desk in an executive suite; he spent his career with regular Americans. He hung out with the guys on construction sites pouring concrete and hanging sheetrock. He listened to them and he valued their opinions as much and often more than the guys from Harvard and Wharton locked away in offices away from the real work." That Donald Jr. went to the not-too-shabby Penn and that Donald Sr. went to Wharton doesn't seem to have undermined his point, at least in his own eyes.
"We didn't learn from MBAs, we learned from people who had doctorates in common sense," he continued. "Guys like Vinnie Stellio, who taught us how to drive heavy equipment, operate tractors and chainsaws, who worked his way through the ranks to become a trusted adviser of my father. It's why we're the only children of billionaires as comfortable in a D10 Caterpillar as we are in our own cars." Senior taught Junior how to be a man of the people. Impressive.
That Trump's life (elder or junior) doesn't always match up with the rhetoric is part of the point. Is the guy who went to The Hill School telling America how its public schools are faltering? Sure, and he's just avoiding a plagiarism charge of his own in doing so. The point of a Trump story is not the detail, it's the gist. And only a Trump can tell a Trump story that lands. The head of UFC says that Trump showed up at his sporting events as though that's an achievement that Dwight Eisenhower would find difficult, and you sort of shrug. Junior says that the way his father "approaches life, whether it's teaching his granddaughter how to swing a golf club, or tackling the toughest negotiations" is to be "always fully committed," and it somehow comes off a bit more easily.
Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell barely even tried to talk about Trump. The also-rans appearing on Wednesday night — like the also-rans that appeared on Tuesday, Chris Christie and Ben Carson — are so clearly angling for their own political wins (for example: with a chair in the Cabinet of President Trump) that it can be hard to consider them as advocates for anything besides themselves.
There are really two blockbuster speakers left on the schedule, and one of them is not Gov. Mike Pence. Trump's running mate will go up there Wednesday night like Hank Hill tasked with making a birdhouse: He'll craft something functional, sturdy and dull. His family will come out and the delegates will clap at him more out of the enthusiasm of getting to be one of those people who gets to clap at a convention than out of sheer joy at the prospect of Vice President Pence.
The two blockbuster speakers are both Trumps: Donald and Ivanka, his daughter. It's horrible to say, but the Trump crew may have lined up his family to speak in order of presentation quality. We'll see how Eric does; Junior will be tough to beat. But by most external measures, Ivanka is positioned to be the star of the bunch. Her poise and sharpness have been apparent since the beginning of the campaign, and she's demonstrated a much stronger ability to stay on message than her father.
It means, then, that the most compelling speakers may end up mostly being Trumps. Junior. Senior. Ivanka. Rudy Giuliani and Christie are floating around in the top ranks of performers, too, compelling for slightly different reasons. But by the time the balloons drop, the people that Trump could count on to get the job done are the same people he counts on in the business world. The people who know him well, who can ride to the top floor of Trump Tower any time they want. The people who share his DNA.