Donald Trump has given a solid, conventional, polite, but also barn-burning speech at the conclusion of the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
Coming out to a packed Quicken Loans Arena, following a long introduction by daughter Ivanka, some party stooge and a film suggesting Trump built the entire New York skyline, Trump gave a speech lasting more than an hour, touching every area of policy, and conspicuously avoiding cheap attacks on his presumed opponent Hillary Clinton.
The speech began with a focus on safety, the killing of police officers and the alleged failure of the current administration in keeping the community safe. It then veered into the question of reviving the economy and a renegotiation of trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement, a commitment to a wider presence in the world and also less of a burden, to tax cuts and deficit reduction, to the expansion of the military and a cut in government waste.
There were specific shout outs: to veterans (“you can have the doctor of your choice!”) and to women — daughter Ivanka had promised universal childcare which the cynical/addled crowd cheered to the rafters — and to evangelicals, to whom he promised to repeal the law preventing tax deductible organisations from speaking out on political issues.
There was more. Much more. Starting at 10.30pm, the speech headed towards midnight. Trump kept his discipline for much of the speech — when the anti-Hillary chant “lock her up” began, he said “let’s defeat her” — and only started to get a bit rambunctious towards the end, remarking of his competitors that “we sure enjoyed beating them!”, but rounding it out with a few standard speech bells and whistle. “We’re for the believers and strivers, not the critics and cynics,” he said.
He wrapped it all up with the usual flourishes and then the balloons came down, filling the auditorium, 150,000 of them, and everyone started running for the doors, to get to the parties and grab an Uber to get the hell out of Cleveland.
So the question: can Trump maintain a presidential demeanor through the coming weeks and months? Or will he relapse into his old style? And, crucially, if he does become more presidential, will he lose a vital sector of the electorate who prized his rude and aggressive persona?
On the strength of tonight’s performance, Trump will be a formidable opponent. Coming up, my Game Of Thrones recap …
More from today: Rundle: on Donald’s day, the full Trump in a dive bar