Did the RNC boost Trump’s reelection odds?

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·Senior Editor
·6 min read
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  • Donald Trump
    Donald Trump
    45th President of the United States
  • Joe Biden
    Joe Biden
    46th and current president of the United States

“The 360” shows you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories and debates.

What’s happening

President Trump closed the Republican National Convention with a lengthy speech Thursday night from the South Lawn of the White House. Trump levied repeated, and often false, attacks at Joe Biden and attempted to paint an optimistic picture of a nation in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, an economic collapse and social unrest.

His speech largely echoed themes that had been raised by speakers throughout the convention: claims that Democratic policies would make the country less safe, stories of how the president’s actions had affected Americans, and testimonies of Trump’s capacity to lead the U.S. out of this moment of crisis.

The staging of the event was a source of intense controversy. Holding Trump’s speech on government property was, at minimum, a break from traditional norms. It may also have been illegal. The crowd of 1,500 spectators at the White House also largely ignored coronavirus mitigation strategies like social distancing and masks.

Why there’s debate

Political observers are split on whether Trump’s speech and the larger convention helped his chances of being reelected. Some analysts praised Republicans for selling a consistent message over the course of the four-night event. The emphasis on safety and criticisms of Biden’s policies likely resonated with the GOP base, while positive messaging about the future of the country may have appealed to swing voters who have been turned off by Trump over the past few years, they argue. Others say the scene at the White House, though ethically and legally problematic, effectively portrayed Trump as presidential.

Republicans painted a rosy image of Trump’s record that was so disconnected with the reality of what’s happening in the country that it was unlikely to resonate with anyone other than his most dedicated followers, some pundits argue. Trump may also have provided fodder for his critics with his acceptance speech — which was rife with falsehoods and delivered without his usual energy level, observers from both sides of the aisle say.

There’s also skepticism that either party did much to shift the state of the race with its convention, given the deep partisanship in the U.S. and voters’ focus on the crises the country currently faces. That lack of impact can be scored as a win for Biden, some experts say, because he holds a significant lead over Trump in polls of crucial swing states.

What’s next

Both candidates are set to hit the campaign trail in the lead-up to the first presidential debate, which is scheduled for Sept. 29. Arguments over the rules of the debates and questions of whether they may not happen at all are likely to be major storylines over the next few weeks.

Perspectives

Boosters

Republicans maintained focus on an effective line of attack on Biden

“The Trump campaign has settled on its theme, which is as subtle as a jackhammer. Trump is all that stands between ‘the forgotten man’ and carnage: death, darkness, violence, riots, anarchy, mayhem, cultural revolution, the death of God. Democrats may be infuriated by this line of attack, but they’d be fools to ignore the danger it poses to them.” — Peter Wehner, New York Times

The Republican convention was much more effective than the DNC

“If the point of a political convention is to get your party’s message out, win over voters and boost your candidate’s prospects, then make no mistake about the 2020 conventions, Republicans absolutely buried Democrats.” — Liz Peek, Fox News

The convention created space for skeptical voters to choose Trump

“The Republican National Convention was a resounding success because it achieved what its organizers set out to do: create a permission structure that allows millions of reluctant voters to cast their ballots for President Trump.” — Marc A. Thiessen, Washington Post

Many voters don’t care whether Trump’s claims are false

“Little of what the RNC speakers threatened Joe Biden or Democrats would do — including defunding the police — is 100% true. Some of it, in fact, is provably false. But it doesn’t have to be true to be effective. And I’m sure for some voters who are just now tuning in, it was.” — SE Cupp, CNN

The RNC was largely successful, but Trump’s speech stunted its impact

“This has been, on the whole, a very effective and visually striking convention, but at its heart was always the question of whether the other speakers could sell a vision of Trump and the Republican Party at odds with how many people — with reason — see Trump himself and his agenda. Trump didn’t go and do anything outrageous tonight, but the overstuffed nature of his speech and its listless ending felt like a letdown at the end.” — Dan McLaughlin, National Review

Critics

Trump missed an opportunity to expand his appeal beyond his base

“Trump is behind in the polls, and this was an opportunity to reach out beyond his strongest supporters. But there was nothing new here; even had it been well-written and well-delivered and well-staged, it was just a laundry list — a very long laundry list — of his usual lines.” — Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg

Trump’s speech undermined the optimism that had been laid out by previous speakers

“His broadside against Biden was a reminder of how this president has trafficked in demagoguery and distortion throughout his time in office. It also undermined attempts by his party during its virtual convention to project a more optimistic and inclusive message that might peel away enough voters to secure the president’s reelection.” — Editorial, Los Angeles Times

The central message of the convention made no sense

“Trump and Republicans spent the night painting a picture of America as a violent, dangerous hellscape where rioters and looters have taken control. Then Trump bragged and lied about all of his accomplishments in making this country great. That’s not really an effective message for an incumbent, who’s been the leader of the country for four years. Trump basically made the case to vote for Biden.” — Wajahat Ali, New York Times

Republicans showed they have no plan for rescuing America from crisis

“The Republican National Committee chose not even to adopt a platform this cycle. In other words, the party no longer stands for anything. So it was unsurprising that, relying on a mixture of hyperbole and lies, both Mr. Trump and the speakers preceding him highlighted what they’re against.” — Editorial, Washington Post

Voters won’t be convinced by the GOP’s attempts to rewrite Trump’s record

“Politically, at least, the spectacle suggested a President entering his reelection campaign not strong and confident of victory but insecure and faltering, a President whose prospects, left unvarnished by lies and fantasy, were so poor that his strategists had to reinvent him as a different person altogether.” — Susan B. Glasser, New Yorker

Neither convention will have much impact on voters

“All in all, a successful GOP convention is in the books and now we see whether two weeks of political speeches made a lick of difference in the national political environment, or if the electorate is too ossified to be moved much at all.” — Scott Jennings, CNN

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