The Baja 500 GOP Convention in Cleveland went off road early and stayed there, and if at times it felt like Yosemite Sam was driving and Wile E. Coyote co-piloting, in the end Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and his principal spokesman, Sean Spicer, grabbed the wheel and got over the finish line in one piece and with spectacular ratings. So who “won” and who “lost” during this week of perfect weather on the lake?
The city of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. I’ve been coming to conventions as a journalist since 2000. This was by far the best organized, easiest to reach, easiest to pass through security, staffed by the most welcoming people, most helpful yet vigilant team of law enforcement I have ever encountered at such a venue.
All week long the accolades piled up, and Mayor Frank Jackson, Police Chief Calvin Williams and every member of the host committee from David Gilbert on down deserve every syllable of the praise they receive. Thousands of journalists from around the world will spread the word to convention planners far and wide: “Now Cleveland, that place has its act together and is fun!” Coming weeks after the NBA championship (the LeBron/Kyrie ’16 shirts were easily the best presidential memorabilia about) and a parade day with 1.3 million and hardly a shove, #TheLand had a fantastic time. Bring on the Ohio Olympics bid.
Donald Trump and the Trump Family
Donald Trump came, saw and conquered. His children went four for four in terrific speeches with Ivanka almost stealing the night from her father.
But it was the original Trump who milked his long Thursday night speech — purposeful and a ratings bonanza — to lay out his message in disciplined, audience-by-audience focused fashion. Trump nailed every dismount he wanted to make and moved a little left with his LGBTQ acknowledgment and his explicit appeal to the Bernie Sanders voters (who would be punked the next day by Hillary Clinton’s choice of free-trader, banker-friendly Tim Kaine) and by reassuring traditional GOPers that he has their back on the Supreme Court — Trump’s biggest applause line of the night. Five stars for all the Trumps.
Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Scott Walker, Reince Preibus, Tom Cotton
These six GOP stalwarts are mainstream conservatives but managed to finish the dance with the Trump wing of the party with their principles intact and their speeches well-received. The #NeverTrump people may never forgive them but the Trump followers will not bear them long term grudges in the decades of politics ahead. Each smiled and orated their way in person through the rockiest parts of the Baja 500 Convention and are admired by party folk and conservatives alike for having done so.
Would-be disrupters in the street, if they were even there. The law enforcement professionals gave them space but not authority and their big plans went phtttt. I hope Philly is as well organized, but the Berniefolk are angry. We shall see.
Jury out until 2020
Sen. Ted Cruz was giving the best speech of the convention until he wasn’t. He paused, noticeably, and then plunged ahead combining the rhetorical fire of a defeated Ronald Reagan in 1976 with the gale of boos that swept defeated Nelson Rockerfeller from the stage in 1964. What happens next for the genius from the Lone Star State nobody knows but he entered the political history books.
So goodbye, Cleveland. It was a heck of a ride. Smart organizations will gather by the lake for years to come because of the sparkling side you showed off in the summer of ’16.
And get that Ohio Olympics bid organized. People won’t laugh now when Cleveland and Columbus (and Akron, Canton, Warren, Youngstown and Ashtabula) team up to say “Of course we can do that. Weren’t you watching in the summer of ’16?”
This column was originally posted on WashingtonExaminer.com.