CLEVELAND, Jul 21 – Newly minted Republican nominee Donald Trump landed by helicopter in Cleveland on Wednesday to greet ecstatic supporters as he focused on the need to unite a Republican party and heal crippling divisions. The 70-year-old New York billionaire, who thanked the Republican National Convention by video link for his coronation, returned to the Ohio city on the shores of Lake Erie in person Wednesday as he sought to draw a line under a plagiarism row implicating his ex-model wife.
He stepped off the helicopter emblazoned with his name in a public plaza in Cleveland and went on a walkabout, accompanied by his well-dressed family, including glamorous elder daughter Ivanka, and his nominee for vice president, conservative Indiana Governor Mike Pence.
“This is really an honour,” he told well-wishers. “We’re going to win it all,” he added, introducing his “friend” Pence to cheers as “somebody who’s going to make an unbelievable vice president.” It was a reminder of the former reality TV star’s ability to pull made-for-TV tricks out of the bag and saw him upstage the politician who came closest to denying him the nomination, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who hinted across town that he might not endorse the nominee.
“In the meanwhile, I don’t know what the future is going to hold,” Cruz told supporters at an open-air restaurant some distance from the arena where the convention is being held. “What I do know is that everyone of us has an obligation to follow our conscience.”
“There’s a lot of talk about unity. I want to see unity, and the way of unity is for us to unite behind shared principles, us to unite to defend liberty,” the ultra-conservative told his loyalists. One block from the convention site, police arrested five people Wednesday when clashes broke out as protesters tried to set fire to American flags, police said.
Two officers were “assaulted” and suffered minor injuries. Security forces, including the horse-mounted police which have flooded downtown Cleveland this week, closed ranks and several detained people were seen kneeling with their hands behind their backs.
Mostly peaceful demonstrations have taken place each day of the political jamboree so far but only minor scuffles have broken out until now – a far cry from predictions of violence ahead of the convention. But it was a reminder of the scale of the task before Trump if he is to quiet questions about his campaign’s professionalism and heal crippling party divisions, let alone win a national election.
Just hours earlier, a Trump staffer admitted to using Michelle Obama quotes in a speech delivered by Trump’s Slovenia-born ex-model wife on Monday, apologising and offering to resign. Melania Trump had “always liked” the Democratic first lady and had “read me some passages from Mrs Obama’s speech” as examples of what she wanted to tell the convention, said the staffer, Meredith McIver.
“I wrote them down and later included some of the phrasing in the draft that ultimately became the final speech,” she said. “This was my mistake, and I feel terrible for the chaos I have caused.” On Wednesday, Trump’s second son, Eric, will make the case for his father, while Cruz and another senator, Marco Rubio, whom Trump also vanquished are scheduled to speak along with Pence.
Trump’s roller-coaster campaign defeated 16 rivals and steamrolled stubborn party opposition after being written off as a joke, the billionaire having never held elected office. His campaign defied political norms – embracing racially inflammatory policies, offending key voting blocs, eschewing big-spending advertising campaigns and relying on saturated media coverage above campaign structure.
There were still murmurings of dissent around the convention floor and from members of the party. On Tuesday night, many clapped politely after his victory, a few angrily walked out or voiced their unease. But some delegates who supported others in the primaries are lining up behind Trump and there are fresh signs that the establishment has thrown its lot in with Trump in a bid to beat Clinton.
His campaign will hope that disdain for Clinton will unite the party and make a series of missteps – like the plagiarism scandal – irrelevant. “The Clinton years are way over,” said speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan, who hesitated to endorse Trump earlier this year: “2016 is the year America moves on.”
On Tuesday, Donald Trump Jr, the candidate’s eldest son, made a sweeping speech peppered with personal anecdotes and appeared to go the furthest in the campaign so far in making a direct pitch to minority voters who have so far felt alienated by Trump’s message. — AFP