Trump closes convention with stabilizing speech
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CLEVELAND — Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSteele Dossier sub-source was subject of FBI counterintelligence probe Pelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' Trump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance 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 ClintonFox News poll: Biden ahead of Trump in Nevada, Pennsylvania and Ohio Trump, Biden court Black business owners in final election sprint The power of incumbency: How Trump is using the Oval Office to win reelection 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 ClintonAnxious Democrats amp up pressure for vote on COVID-19 aid Barr's Russia investigator has put some focus on Clinton Foundation: report Epstein podcast host says he affiliated with elites from 'both sides of the aisle' 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 ObamaBlack stars reimagine 'Friends' to get out the vote Obama shares phone number to find out how Americans are planning to vote Michelle Obama: 'Don't listen to people who will say that somehow voting is rigged' MORE address. 

Even worse was to come for Trump, when Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump previews SCOTUS nominee as 'totally brilliant' Cruz blocks amended resolution honoring Ginsburg over language about her dying wish Trump argues full Supreme Court needed to settle potential election disputes 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 RyanKenosha will be a good bellwether in 2020 At indoor rally, Pence says election runs through Wisconsin Juan Williams: Breaking down the debates 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 SandersThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump faces backlash after not committing to peaceful transition of power Bernie Sanders: 'This is an election between Donald Trump and democracy' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump stokes fears over November election outcome 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.