Ivanka Trump introduced her father for his nomination acceptance speech last night as “the People’s President.” At first blush, that might not sound like the flashy Manhattan developer who has been in the public eye for decades, but the optimism and inclusivity of this week’s Republican National Convention made for compelling viewing that may move voters and reshape the election.
Presidential campaigns shift into high gear at national conventions when nominations are made official and parties publicly rally behind their standard bearers. After two weeks of conventions, contrary to national polls, President Trump’s re-nomination party showcased a team brimming with the confidence of a winner, while a feeble Joe Biden and the Democrats often looked angry and committed to self-defeating divisiveness.
To be sure, there were some factually questionable assertions at the GOP confab, such as National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow referring to the COVID-19 pandemic in the past tense. And despite approval ratings among his party members that have consistently been over 90%, the Lincoln Project of anti-Trump Republicans reminds that well-connected parts of the establishment are bitterly opposed to the incumbent commander in chief from their own party.
These quibbles should not mislead anyone into thinking this was anything but a strong showing by Republicans. From dramatic fireworks over the national mall in Washington and opera singer Christopher Macchio booming “God Bless America” from the White House portico, to a naturalization ceremony for new U.S. citizens and the emotional pardoning of a reformed bank robber, the former reality TV star turned president displayed that he can still produce stirring television.
There was substance behind the pomp and pyrotechnics, some of which broke normal partisan boundaries. For example, throughout the convention, Republicans consistently highlighted human interest stories from the African American community that call attention to a hard push that has raised Trump’s approval among blacks to 36%.
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Underlying this outreach are realities that have been forgotten recently amidst a national narrative that has fanned the flames of racial conflict. Namely, Americans, no matter their color, mostly want the same things, like financial security, good schools for their kids, and safe neighborhoods — and the Republican convention shone the spotlight on people of all races and religions and explained how they share these same desires in life.
The Trump political gamble always has been whether the addition of new supporters attracted to his brash straight talk and nationalist policies can grow faster than those subtracted from Republican voter rolls by him. Trump’s priority to bring manufacturing jobs back to the rust belt successfully won over Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania together to the GOP column for the first time since 1984.
Long term, the embrace of black Americans is a natural fit with blue-collar whites in Trump populism’s championing of constituencies neglected by globalist economics. Likewise, the convention’s focus on law and order can appeal to suburbanites worried about growing violence in the streets as well as those in crime-ridden urban settings who will be put most at risk by initiatives to defund the police.
“Together, we are the proud citizens of the United States of America,” Trump stated yesterday from the dais. As implausible as it may sound to his detractors, the president concluded his second nominating convention on this theme of togetherness. As the race tightens — with polls near the margin of error in states such as Michigan, Wisconsin and even Minnesota — a positive, unifying campaign down the stretch could be Trump’s ticket to a second term.
Brett M. Decker, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors, is a former editor for The Wall Street Journal and bestselling author of “The Conservative Case for Trump.” Follow him on Twitter: @BrettMDecker