The Republican National Convention closed with a bang last night, as the balloons dropped, the Trumps and Pences took center stage, and everything seemed right for the politically right. But after four days in Cleveland, what did we learn? I see seven things.
1. A new CNN poll has a big surprise.
The race has become a dead heat over the last four days. In the last 24 hours, a new Rasmussen poll has Trump up by 1 point, while the L.A. Times poll has the race dead even. More interestingly, a brand new CNN poll has the reliably blue state of Pennsylvania a toss-up. There are eight battleground states that can go either way: Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and North Carolina. That is where the election will be decided. And the race is closer than ever.
2. Donald Trump has an amazing family.
His wife, Melania, gave the best speech. His four adult children all did a great job of laying out policy and casting a softer image of their father. The family is clearly close. The optics of the family all together on stage as the convention closed late last night will not soon be forgotten. Trump’s family is bright, attractive, and substantive. They are his greatest asset.
3. Mike Pence may be a great VP pick.
The man from Indiana shed his bland image with a riveting speech Wednesday night. He was pointed, sharp, on message, and charismatic. He was even funny – a surprise to most political observers. Most importantly, he is just unknown enough for the media to keep following him around for awhile. That will be good for the Trump campaign.
4. The Trump campaign is amazingly disorganized.
How did the Cruz speech get by them? How did the Melania Trump plagiarism happen? How was the Pence speech allowed to end after the main networks had signed off the air? In tennis terms, the convention was full of unforced errors. This is emblematic of a bigger problem. The campaign itself is not ready for prime time. And that’s a problem, because they just spent four nights in prime time.
5. Ted Cruz has some explaining to do.
The Cruz speech made two things clear: he is running in 2020 and he doesn’t care what party insiders say. I’ll stop just short of saying his refusal to endorse Trump is political suicide. It may be the ultimate example of the true conservative/outsider doing his Texas Alamo impression. The problem is, the Texans lost that battle.
6. A new paradigm is in play.
Trump has proven that a big organization is not necessary. The man has become the message. According to his record as well as his rhetoric over the past few decades, he is neither right nor left, conservative nor liberal. He is his own man. And that may just work.
7. Outsider-ism is in.
Donald Trump is the ultimate outsider. As I was speaking with my brother about the 2016 election the other day, I said, “Donald Trump may be able to win only one election in American history – this one.” At no other time could someone with so little political experience and so much bluster be tied for the race to the White House. That is not a criticism – he has been brilliant to tap in on something. America may be ready for the ultimate outsider. America may be ready for Donald Trump.