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The Republican National Convention came to a close on Thursday night after a dramatic week marred by a plagiarism controversy involving Melania Trump and a surreal scene in which Ted Cruz was shouted off the stage.

GOP nominee Donald Trump’s critics have seized on the unrest to paint a picture of an amateur campaign struggling to unite a divided party. 

{mosads}But Trump’s supporters are confident they’re leaving Cleveland in better shape than when they arrived.

“The bottom line is, there is no question we have more unity, more unanimity of thought, more enjoyment, more camaraderie, and the progression is peaking perfectly,” said Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin. “If I had to imagine what he’s thinking and wanted, he got pretty much everything he wanted.” 

Here are five ways Trump supporters believe the convention was a net positive for them.

The Finale

The final night of the convention was drama-free and sent the party off on a high note.

The evening kicked off with a five-year old girl named Heavenly Joy bringing the crowd to its feet with a singing voice that sounded as if it belonged to a full-grown woman.

Influential Christian leader Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, followed that act by finally announcing his endorsement for Trump. Perkins’s support could go a long way in helping the nominee rally the social conservatives who have remained on the sidelines.

The Trump campaign put on a display of diversity with a fiery performance from black South Carolina pastor Mark Burns, gay Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, and Dr. Lisa Shin, who is Korean.

Trump’s daughter Ivanka set her father up with a string of personal stories about him, and Trump followed with a red meat speech that electrified the crowd.

After the turbulence earlier in the week, it was essential for the Trump campaign to recover. The finale appeared to accomplish that mission.

The vice president

Mike Pence’s big moment was overshadowed by the chaos around Ted Cruz.

But conservatives cheered Pence’s performance, which put to rest any fears that the Indiana governor would be overwhelmed by the spectacle of Trump.

Pence was confident, relaxed and humble. He forcefully made the case for a Trump presidency and pointedly attacked Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

He has an understated demeanor befitting of a Midwest governor, the respect of the Republican establishment in Washington, and credibility among social conservatives.

Republicans see a winner.

“The American people were introduced … to the Mike Pence that many of us have known and admired — an articulate, hopeful and principled spokesman for conservative principles and Midwestern values,” said former Cincinnati Mayor Ken Blackwell. 

“He delivered a vintage, full throttle Reagan-esque conservative vision for the country,” Blackwell said. “No question, Governor Pence’s speech … will energize the conservative base of the party, which is critical because Republicans do not win without its energy.”

The Cruz fiasco

Trump offered Cruz, one of his former primary rivals, a prime-time spot on stage even though the Texas senator would be the only convention speaker who hadn’t endorsed the nominee.

Pundits will debate for weeks to come whether that was a wise move and what it means about the political futures for both men.

Cruz caused a massive distraction, threw Republicans wildly off message at a key moment, and further reminded the country that there is a deep rift within the party over Trump. 

But it’s also true that Cruz was booed off the stage by convention-goers who were furious that he had the gall to slight their nominee at his own convention.

Trump supporters believe Cruz was exposed for having put political ambition ahead of party unity and say it will benefit their candidate in the long run.

“Honestly what Ted Cruz did last night in a weird way it kind of unified people behind Trump in a way they hadn’t before,” said Georgia delegate Buzz Brockway, who initially supported Marco Rubio’s bid. “There was some sympathy for him.”

Signs of organizational strength

There are still plenty of reasons for Republicans to be concerned about Trump’s operation.

He will be outspent and outmanned by Clinton. And the furor over allegations that Melania Trump lifted passages from a Michelle Obama speech was an unforced error that dragged on far longer than it needed to because of the campaign’s confused reaction.

But the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee colluded to head-off several challenges that could have resulted in further embarrassment.

Last week they tested their joint whip operations, getting Trump’s positions codified into the party’s platform and striking down efforts to strip the national party of control over the primary process.

This week the whip operations flew into overdrive, muscling through a rules package over the objection of several factions of insurgent candidates. The RNC and Trump campaign convinced delegates from a handful of states to back away from petitions that could have resulted in trouble on the convention floor.

And the Never Trump movement was put down with a whimper as the RNC and Trump campaign leaned hard on the rebels and those who considered joining them.

The end result was that on Tuesday night, in perhaps the greatest showing of unity the party displayed throughout the convention, the delegates overwhelmingly nominated Trump as their nominee with essentially no objection from the floor.

The protests fizzled

Republicans and the media arrived in Cleveland bracing for the worst.

Many of Trump’s events have attracted masses of protesters and have been marred by incidents of violence.

Trump is fashioning himself as the “law and order” candidate, so the last thing the campaign needed would have been screaming headlines about arrests or clashes between protesters and the police.

There were ultimately a few tense moments but nothing more.

Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Marco Rubio Marsha Blackburn Michelle Obama Mike Pence Ted Cruz
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