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Post Republican Convention Wrap-Up: Did The Party Make Progress On Unity?


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. The Republican Party nominated Donald Trump for president this week, an event which no pundit - maybe no one in the party - predicted when he began his campaign last summer. Trump chose the governor of Indiana, Mike Pence, as his running mate. And he closed the convention with a 73-minute speech in which he said he would end illegal immigration, rip up existing trade deals and redefine America's role in the world to emphasize its national interests. NPR's Ron Elving has just returned from the convention and joins us. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.


SIMON: Donald Trump's convention - his party, too?

ELVING: He is the nominee, and he is the leader, and he surely is the figurehead of the party. But there are significant factions that are not with him at this point. That includes a lot of current elected officials of some import. The Ohio governor, John Kasich, another presidential contender, was in Cleveland last week, but he shunned the convention. That's completely unprecedented for a host governor of the same party. And, you know, obviously most Republicans are going to vote for Donald Trump, but even that is in doubt for some, including some of the convention delegates last week.

SIMON: Well, and Donald Trump yesterday - day after the convention - renewed what I think we can fairly characterize as a personal feud with Ted Cruz.

ELVING: Well, that's right, and it is a personal feud on one level. There were those attacks between the two - pictures of their wives that were put out on the Internet. And of course, just yesterday, after the convention, Donald Trump renewed what had to be one of the most scurrilous moments of the entire primary campaign when he went after Ted Cruz's father, Rafael Cruz, a Cuban immigrant, suggesting again that somehow that man had something to do with Lee Harvey Oswald assassinating John F. Kennedy in 1963. So that's pretty outside the normal bounds. And also, apparently, there are reports that Trump is considering putting together some kind of a hit fund to challenge John Kasich and Ted Cruz should they ever run for office again in their home states.

SIMON: Ted Cruz spoke at the convention. He didn't endorse - a very dramatic moment. And Donald Trump came by - came down during the last few paragraphs of the speech. And then Ted Cruz stared down his own Texas delegation the next day.

ELVING: Yes, that was the most dramatic moment of the entire convention on Wednesday night and possibly the thing people will remember besides the Trump speech. Really hard to think of any kind of a precedent for this - of somebody actually having a major featured speaking role and then not endorsing the candidate.

Some people actually believe that Donald Trump set the whole thing up - that he knew Cruz was not going to endorse him. He had been told that on Monday. But he staged it all to make Ted Cruz look bad. And Cruz has, in fact, taken a beating in a lot of conservative media since then.

SIMON: What other personalities, figures, speakers do you think had an impact at this convention?

ELVING: Not as many, other than the nominee, as you would normally see at a convention, and most of the ones that there were were named Trump. You know, we had the introduction of the nominee by his older daughter Ivanka, who is certainly an impressive presence and an impressive presenter and brought up some issues that might actually be more appropriate at the Democratic convention, like equal pay for women.

And then two of his sons also spoke, as well as his wife, Melania, on the first night. There was a speech, of course, by the vice presidential nominee, Mike Pence, who seems to be quite serviceable in the role. He is now the governor of Indiana. And House Speaker Paul Ryan also emerged as a kind of peacemaker within the party.

SIMON: And a significant change in the party, too, with respect to the lesbian and gay and bisexual community and transgender community.

ELVING: Yes, and respect is the key word here. Trump invited the openly gay entrepreneur Peter Teal, one of the co-founders of PayPal, to address the convention and also to address the fact that he was gay. Trump himself said he would protect the LGBT community against radical Islamic terrorism and Sharia law.

But at the same convention, the party also adopted what has been widely described as the most pronounced anti-gay platform ever, condemning same sex-marriage, condoning discrimination in certain cases with respect to services to gay couples - for example, trying to get married if people have religious objections to that - and also endorsing conversion therapy to persuade people they are not gay.

SIMON: Well, the Democrats - Tim Kaine and Hillary Rodham Clinton - next week. Thanks very much, Ron.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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