As Joe Biden finished his speech on Thursday night, I breathed a sigh of relief because the Democratic Convention was ending as a success. MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace described it, somewhat hyperbolically, as successfully constructing an airplane while it was flying. There is no need to list all the challenges that a ‘virtual’ convention faced, and despite the fact that it had never been done before, the Democrats totally pulled it off.
My next reaction was that I couldn’t wait for Monday to see how the Republicans would follow this up. You can talk about confirmation bias all you want, but the DNC did an objectively good job. Will their counterparts be able to pick up the gauntlet and improve on what we watched over the past week?
I predict the answer will be no. We are already seeing media stories suggesting that much of the Republican convention is being thrown together at the last minute. A former “The Apprentice” producer was only recently brought on board to guide the spectacle. And the track record for this administration/campaign (because, is there even a difference?) with regard to making this election about Biden has been pretty bad. Sleepy Joe hasn’t worked. Mentally incapacitated Joe hasn’t worked. Antifa super general Joe hasn’t worked. The Democratic Party looks like they have their man and they have their shit together.
If I were advising the Trump campaign (HA!), I would urge that they copy as much of the successful DNC presentation as possible. Make it into an awards show where Republicans can celebrate their own, set out their policy agenda and highlight their vision for America.
We now know that is not what’s going to happen. At least half the featured addresses are being given by people with the last name Trump, and The Donald himself will be speaking EVERY night. He’s even going to have a Sunday address to talk about how the pandemic is totally under control and he’s done a great job and no one needs to worry about it any more.
None of this will not be good TV.
There is also the issue of crowds. We talk about the President’s constant need for approval and validation, but there is a less personal and more strategic point to be made. If the RNC planners want to play to Trump’s strength, then he needs a crowd of some kind. It would be a strategic mistake NOT to try and take advantage of that strength. The problem, of course, is the pandemic. Portions of the proceedings will be held inside where the District has implemented strict limits on crowd size.
Will the campaign respect those limits, or, as in so many other cases, will Trump simply ignore the clear letter of the law? I think it’s a lose-lose situation. Either the story will be about the pitifully small crowd, or the story will be about more Trump lawlessness.
Either way, it will result in a ton of interesting coverage and conversation, and I am here for it.