Trump closes convention with stabilizing speech
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CLEVELAND — Donald TrumpDonald TrumpBiden administration still seizing land near border despite plans to stop building wall: report Illinois House passes bill that would mandate Asian-American history lessons in schools Overnight Defense: Administration says 'low to moderate confidence' Russia behind Afghanistan troop bounties | 'Low to medium risk' of Russia invading Ukraine in next few weeks | Intelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats he MORE capped off a tumultuous Republican convention here on Thursday night with a speech presenting himself as a strong leader able to impose order on a nation in crisis, while his Democratic opponent, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChelsea Clinton: Pics of Trump getting vaccinated would help him 'claim credit' Why does Bernie Sanders want to quash Elon Musk's dreams? Republican legislators target private sector election grants MORE, was accused of being complicit in rigging the system against most Americans.

To Trump fans, the address, which ran well over an hour, showed the newly minted nominee at his most comfortable and energized. To his critics, it offered a gloomy, forbidding vision to a nation that prides itself on optimism.

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Trump, who famously loves the spotlight, will now have to yield to Clinton for most of the next week. 

Her choice of running mate could well be announced within the next 24 hours, and the Democratic National Convention will begin in Philadelphia on Monday. 

There, Clinton will be able to roll out political big guns — President Obama and her husband, former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonBiden must compel China and Russia to act on climate A leadership menagerie of metaphorical scapegoats How Democrats can defy the odds in 2022 MORE, among them — striking a stark contrast with the Republican National Convention. Many high-profile Republicans, including 2012 nominee Mitt Romney and both Presidents Bush, stayed away from Cleveland, as did a large number of senators.

But Trump’s speech at least stabilized the GOP after the storms of the previous days and ended the convention on a positive note. That was important, since the event was hit on its opening night by a furor over a passage from Melania Trump’s speech that turned out to have been plagiarized from a 2008 Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - US vaccine effort takes hit with Johnson & Johnson pause Biden, Obamas and celebrity guests announce coronavirus vaccination TV special Obamas describe meeting Prince Philip in statement mourning his death MORE address. 

Even worse was to come for Trump, when Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCruz no longer wearing mask in Capitol The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Democrats brace for new 'defund the police' attacks MORE’s (R-Texas) refusal to endorse him in his Wednesday night appearance left the crowd in the Quicken Loans Arena — and the Republican Party more broadly — in uproar. The Cruz flap followed on from a row earlier in the week as anti-Trump delegates sought to protest the convention’s rules.

Cruz’s speech in particular robbed the convention of its orthodox role as a display of party unity. The self-inflicted wounds in the GOP from the extraordinary primary season have evidently not healed, and that reality is likely to reassert itself as the rapturous reception Trump received for his acceptance speech dies away.

Other speeches here from figures including Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOn The Money: Senate confirms Gensler to lead SEC | Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week | Top Republican on House tax panel to retire Trump faces test of power with early endorsements Lobbying world MORE (Wis.), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani had their moments but seem unlikely to move the general-election needle.

Still, Trump’s speech showed him playing the cards he had been dealt as well as he could. Giving the biggest speech of his life, he seemed confident and at ease. 

His promise to be the voice of “the forgotten men and women of our country” may prove politically potent. Polls show an overwhelming majority of Americans believe the nation is on the wrong track, and most experts believe Trump’s most plausible road to victory is through Rust Belt states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, where he may be able to draw voters to the polls who have felt disenchanted and disenfranchised for years.

Trump at times adopted a persuasive approach rather than the more bombastic one he sometimes favors, leaning upon statistics to support his contention that crime was out of control, for instance. He also twice invoked the name of Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders: Trump was right about 'trying to end endless wars' Democrats battle over best path for Puerto Rico Bernie Sanders says he disagrees with Tlaib's call for 'no more police' MORE (I-Vt.), Clinton’s left-wing rival in the Democratic primary, appealing for former supporters of the Vermonter to join his movement.

On a purely technical level, Trump also performed well, sticking mostly to the prepared script that rolled across his teleprompter but avoiding the stiltedness that has afflicted some of his prepared addresses in the past. 

Still, Clinton has long sought to portray Trump as too divisive a figure to lead the nation. His focus on immigration in general during his big night — and his reiteration of his promise to built a wall along the southern U.S border in particular — was enthusiastically endorsed by the audience in the hall. But it may not have played so well to the nation at large.

Trump also evidently sees political advantage in presenting himself as the candidate of law and order. He may be right, given that the electorate is grappling with recent tragedies involving the targeted killings of police. But to some, the phrase “law and order candidate” is a racially loaded one, hearkening back to the days of President Richard Nixon.

For now, Republicans will be relieved that the final night of the convention was not hit by the chaos and accusations of amateurism that afflicted it at other times. But now attention swings to Clinton, and the general election begins in earnest.