What Can We Expect from the GOP Convention?

This could be an unpredictable event—GSPM Interim Director Lara Brown weighs on what we might see.

GOP elephant
(William Atkins/GW Today)
July 17, 2016
The 2016 Republican National Convention starts Monday and with approximately 2,470 delegates and 2,302 alternate delegates from across the country, it’s designed to be huge, in the words of the party’s presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump. Graduate School of Political Management's Political Management Program Interim Director Lara Brown talked with George Washington Today about what we might see from the GOP Mr. Trump.
Q: Will the Republican Party unite behind Donald Trump?
A: Although it is likely that we will continue to see some further maneuvering by those delegates who are dissatisfied with Donald Trump and wish there were a different nominee, we can plausibly assume that Trump will retain the support of the majority of the convention's delegates and that he will win the Republican nomination when the votes are counted during the roll call of the states.
That said, the partisan speeches that are delivered by elected officials during the convention are much more likely to focus on the problems with the Democratic Party and the reasons why Hillary Clinton is not qualified to serve as president more than they are likely to laud Donald Trump. 
They may emphasize the presidential ticket, now that it includes the widely-respected governor of Indiana, Mike Pence in the position as vice presidential nominee. In other words, you may well hear a lot of "the Trump-Pence ticket will..." Needless to say, all of these shifts of focus are designed to try to make the party appear less divided and more excited about the forthcoming general election. Of course, whether or not the RNC and the Trump campaign are able to make the situation within the party appear different from the reality is precisely what most journalists are going to be looking for. In other words, every rules scuffle and protest vote among delegates, each platform dispute and every rhetorical slight made against Trump by a delegate or elected official​, no matter how glancing, is likely to be dissected and analyzed in depth. Hence, to a certain extent, even if the RNC and Trump do what is near impossible and create the impression that the GOP is going into the general election as one happy party, given the facts on the ground (many​ elected GOP officials not attending the convention, and many still not endorsing Trump), it is unlikely that it will be seen as a success.    
It is more likely that the RNC and Trump's campaign will do everything they can to minimize drama and to portray a united Republican Party, enthusiastic about supporting a presidential ticket that includes Trump and Pence. 
Q: What else do you predict from Trump?
A: It seems likely that Donald Trump will try to turn the focus away from politics and more toward entertainment, highlighting sports and music celebrities, so as to try to relate to more
​Americans​ and showcase the party as being open to​​ ​"regular people" and not just political activists or insiders. In this sense, I don't imagine that Trump or the RNC want to use the event to display the party's rising political stars​.
Q: There have been some pretty combustible Trump meetings and rallies recently. Will the convention see similar protests and violence? 
A: There will surely be protests outside and away from the convention center by those who oppose Trump. The protesters, however, are likely to do more harm to their cause if these protests become violent and the news coverage shifts to their behavior, rather than the controversies surrounding Trump's nomination.
​Still, it seems hard to imagine that a national convention of this size, with abundant sources of controversy, not the least of which includes the identity of the presidential nominee, would proceed peacefully and without any incident. This election year has been a volatile one; confrontations between protesters and supporters at campaign rallies and events have happened numerous times across the country. While Cleveland appears to have done all it can to prepare for unrest, it seems unlikely that the city officials, law enforcement, and the Republican Party will be able to prevent all verbal clashes, which may escalate into violent confrontations.
Q: How do you think Gov. Mike Pence's vice presidential nomination will play at the convention?
A: Very well. Governor Pence not only has close ties with evangelical Republicans and those conservative activists who supported Sen. Ted Cruz, but he can also serve as a bridge for Trump to members of Congress and others in Washington, since he was a former party leader in the U.S. House of Representatives.​