The political disaster that many predicted last week would begin here in Cleveland with a divisive rules fight, and put a fractured and dysfunctional Republican Party on display for all to see, hasn’t happened. The dissidents did their best in various committees and on the floor of the convention itself to make themselves heard and have their way, but failed for the simple reason that there weren’t as many of them as had been predicted and they found themselves facing delegates focused on the importance of this fall’s general election race.
A week ago, one could almost hear Democrats salivating at the prospect of a Cleveland debacle doing for Hillary Clinton what the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention did for Richard Nixon. Visions of violence in the streets and screaming delegates inside the hall seemed to fill their heads. The actual convention that began formally on Monday must have come as a major disappointment. The NeverTrumpsters faded into the woodwork, the machinery put in place by Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus worked, and the delegates weren’t taking their eyes off their target for a minute.
This convention is about nominating a candidate who the delegates believe can beat Mrs. Clinton in November and, contrary to predictions that they would show up in Cleveland wringing their hands at the prospect of having to nominate Donald Trump, the vast majority of them seem convinced that he can win. Mr. Trump’s signature issues dominated the first day’s programming as the families of victims of criminal illegals released time and again by immigration authorities to rob, rape and kill joined the survivors of Benghazi on the center stage to make the case for a candidate that they believe will make America both great and safe.
The rules fights that were predicted sputtered out, the predictions that the disgruntled would challenge House Speaker Paul Ryan’s selection as permanent chairman of the convention never surfaced, and the delegates seemed ready to put the pre-nomination differences among the candidates behind them, nominate their ticket and move on.
The holdouts, like the Bushes, were hardly discussed, though those who reflected on their comments tended to agree with former senator and 1996 nominee Bob Dole and Trump manager Paul Manafort. Mr. Dole called for unity before the convention and said he was disappointed in Jeb Bush for not getting behind the presumptive nominee, while Mr. Manafort said in reaction to the Bush boycott of the convention that while he and presumably Mr. Trump wish they had decided to attend, the Bushes are “part of the past, we’re dealing with the future.”
The attitude of most delegates with regard to the Bushes, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is that it’s time to get on board or get out of the way of a party focused on denying Hillary Clinton the presidency as much as in electing Donald Trump. The delegates came to Cleveland with that goal in mind and if Mr. Trump is the candidate who can help them do it, they are prepared to stand with him as what most view as a tough and important fight looms before them.
The Clinton campaign, obviously stung by the strength of the images from Cleveland, has since the convention began been sending out emails and tweets attacking Mr. Trump as usual, but sounding more defensive, as if her managers have finally realized that the electoral cakewalk they hoped for is morphing into something quite different.
Until voters actually go to the polls, political success is almost invariably the result of whether one meets or exceeds expectations and by that standard, this convention looks to be a success. We live in an unpredictable world and something could happen in the next day or so to upset what Mr. Priebus and his team have managed to put into motion, but early indications are that the Republicans are moving on and are ready for the fall. As chairman of the party, Mr. Priebus has taken a lot of heat from all sides over the last few months, but he has consistently exceeded the expectations of his critics inside and outside the party.
This convention will nominate Donald Trump and Mike Pence, and is as much about Hillary Clinton as anyone, but when the delegates head home they will have Mr. Priebus to thank for accomplishing something no one thought possible a month ago.
• David A. Keene is Opinion editor at The Washington Times.
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