GOP kicking off convention; Trump to make early visit

Published 9:06 am Monday, July 18, 2016

CLEVELAND — Braced for uncertainty and hoping for unity, Republicans on Monday prepared to kick off their convention to crown Donald Trump as the nation reeled from another outburst of violence and dissident delegates angled for a last-ditch chance to deny the front-runner the nomination.

True to form, Trump himself provided the first surprise of the week, announcing Monday morning he was headed Cleveland later in the day to watch his wife Melania take the spotlight for the first night of speeches.

“I will be there,” Trump said on Fox News. “I want to watch. It is going to be very exciting.”

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It was earlier-than-expected arrival for a man who has shown little interest in tradition with his nominating show. But the next four days would undeniably be Trump’s moment — a week at the pinnacle of American politics that few could have imagined when the New York billionaire entered the race a year ago.

The lineup of speakers would be aimed at showing off “Trump the man,” his advisers said. It would also highlight Trump’s contentious candidacy. Many party leaders and rising stars have steered clear of Cleveland. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a vanquished Trump rival, had no plans to step foot inside the convention.

Top Trump adviser Paul Manafort said “John Kasich is being petulant. He’s embarrassing his party, he’s embarrassing his party in Ohio.”

Monday’s opening night speeches included an odd mix of politicians — Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama — as well as immigration advocates, a marine who fought in the Benghazi attack and entertainers, including actor Scott Baio and Willie Robertson, star of Duck Dynasty.

The theme was “Make America Safe Again” from a self-described law and order candidate.

But the first act Monday was a last-gasp for the effort to stop Trump from sealing the deal. Delegates were due to vote Monday afternoon on the rules that will govern the convention week, and insurgent delegates circulated a petition on Monday trying to force a state-by-state vote — a move that could disrupt floor proceedings even if they fail.

Late Sunday, 14 insurgent members of the convention rules committee emailed their fellow GOP delegates asking them to oppose the rules that panel approved, saying its proposals included “abuses of power.”

Trump’s opponents want to change a rule that requires delegates to vote for the candidate to whom they were committed after state primaries and caucuses. Trump’s nomination is essentially automatic under the current rules, because he has far more than the 1,237 delegates required to win.

Some rebellious delegates threatened to walk out if they are thwarted. Should that occur in significant numbers, it could leave television cameras panning across empty seats.

“We won’t sit around and coronate a king,” said Colorado delegate Kendal Unruh, who like many insurgents has backed vanquished presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

Ryan ignores Trump, focuses on GOP agenda

CLEVELAND — Paul Ryan is ignoring Donald Trump and focusing on the House GOP agenda as he opens his visit to the Republican convention in Cleveland.

The House speaker used an appearance at his home-state Wisconsin delegation breakfast Monday to talk about a six-plank “better way” agenda he’s rolled out in Congress.

It deals with poverty, national security, health care and other issues. Ryan says the agenda is about “giving people a choice” in the election.

But the speaker made no mention of Trump as he spoke for more than 10 minutes. Ryan hesitated for weeks before endorsing the businessman.

Ryan will deliver a speech to the convention on Tuesday.