The Republican National Convention is the most anticipated gathering for GOP members during an election year. Or perhaps was.
The GOP excitement for the RNC reveals a less-than-excited group of attendees, which makes for great quotes in the midst of a frustrated party on the verge of putting forth a nominee most strategists don't like. As Politico puts it, At a time when many Republicans are deeply dissatisfied with their nominee, pessimistic about their prospects for victory in the fall and alarmed about the direction of their party, there’s a reluctance about attending the convention more typically reserved for going to the DMV, being summoned for jury duty or undergoing a root canal.
Quicken Loans Arena, the venue of the Republican National Convention
Many GOP regulars are skipping Cleveland entirely. ("I would rather attend the public hanging of a good friend", says Will Ritter, an up-and-coming Republican digital strategist who worked on the three previous conventions.)
GOP Pollster Chris Perkins said Republicans are less excited this year than they were two decades ago. Perkins commented "This is the first year in the past two decades that Republicans aren't excited about attending the convention. Normally, we're all jazzed up about getting together and celebrating our nominee."
"I don't want anything close to the appearance of supporting Trump," said Jason Roe, a veteran strategist. "This ship can sink without me as a passenger."
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In many cases, people are bailing altogether. The idea of a blowout party, they say, just doesn’t seem appetizing at a time of such uncertainty and division within the GOP. For some, it’ll be the first time in decades they’ll be missing a national convention. “What’s there to celebrate?” asked Jay Zeidman, a Texas health care executive whose family has been a major benefactor of the Republican Party. “The party has hit rock bottom in terms of leadership.”
So why are they going:
Those who are going often say they’re doing so out of a sense of obligation — to meet with clients or to hold meetings before making a beeline back to the airport. As the Republican Party prepares to nominate a figure who is registering historically high disapproval ratings, some don’t want to advertise their presence in Cleveland. “Don’t use my name,” said one senior party strategist. “I don’t want anyone to know I’m there.” (A few days after the interview, the strategist got back in touch, having decided not to go, after all.)
“I am there for one day on business,” said Danny Diaz, who served as Jeb Bush’s campaign manager and advises a number of the party’s most prominent figures. “It is business and nothing more.”
That also means far less "traditional" Republican star power...
Dampening the mood, however, will be the decided lack of star power. While conventions typically attract the party’s leaders, many of the GOP’s biggest names — from rising stars like Kelly Ayotte and Ben Sasse, to past nominees like Mitt Romney and John McCain, to ex-presidents George W. and George H.W. Bush — won’t be in attendance. And many of the party’s most prominent figures have said they won’t be a part of the speaking program. As of Monday evening, convention officials had yet to release a speaker’s program.
... As well as less business for locals, starting with the caterers...
The parties are typically paid for by corporate sponsors, and a number of them, including Wells Fargo, Ford and Apple, have decided to pull funding for this year’s convention. On Friday, Cleveland Scene, a local news outlet, reported that some of the city’s caterers have reduced their number of convention-related events and let go of some staff because of the lack of corporate sponsorship.
The truth is that Trump could care less whether the GOP is excited or not about the convention, and which conventional, pardon the pun, republicans are in attendance, or whether Joe's PIzza doesn't make its monthly budget. It's his party and he knows it. Trump is to Cleveland politics what Rick Vaughn was to Cleveland Indians in Major League. As we said in our June piece "Trump Plans To Have Tyson, Ditka, & Bobby Knight At GOP Convention":
"Trump said he'd rather sports greats address the convention as opposed to "these people, these politicians who are going to get up and speak and speak and speak." Adding that "our country needs to see winners. We don't see winners anymore. We have a bunch of clowns running this country. We have people who don't know what the hell they're doing running our country."
The flip side is that Trump is also a magnet for attention and mayhem. And with the US still managing the aftermath of shootings from coast to coast and civilians who are warring with their own police forces, having Trump in Cleveland is a risky call, even with the reported 500 to 600 Cleveland police officers (a third of the force) "devoted to the convention". Mixing a combustible police force that has a history of abuse and mixing it with politically charged Trump supporters and likely protesters at a national covention the nominee's own party does not want to attend, should be an interesting weekend. CNN - whose ratings are sure to explode - reported last year on the Cleveland Police Department:
A report released Thursday details a nearly two-year Justice Department investigation which found that Cleveland police use guns, Tasers, pepper spray and their fists excessively, unnecessarily or in retaliation. Officers also have used excessive force on those "who are mentally ill or in crisis," the Justice Department said.
The Justice Department's investigation started in 2013, after several incidents, including a controversial case the previous year when more than 100 officers were involved in a high-speed chase that ended with the deaths of two unarmed civilians.
Aside from complaining about Trump, security does indeed seem to be a major concerns for attendees:
In an email, one senior Republican National Committee official wrote that he is “concerned as heck about the potential for some homegrown violence/native ISIS type threat. If you want to make a statement in America, what better place to do it?”
We are about to find out. Luckily for Trump, the California Penal League has his back and with that, he just may survive Cleveland.
Finally, not everyone is fatalistic:
“This campaign has been unlike any other in American history,” said Alex Conant, a former top aide to Marco Rubio, who will be heading to Cleveland. “Why wouldn’t the convention also be unlike anything we’ve ever seen?”
That is one statement we can wholeheartedly agree with.