GOP convention, night four: Rudy, Ivanka, Tom Cotton, and Trump, Trump, and more Trump

Here’s the live feed for those watching on their computers. Read on.

Tonight’s the big one, when the presidential mansion gets turned into the partisan campaign prop the Founders always dreamed it would be:

Anyway. Last night’s TV ratings were a surprise, and not in a way that’ll please the president.

Democrats won the ratings battle on nights one and two as well, but more narrowly. On night one it was 19.7 million viewers for them versus 17 million for Republicans, although Dems had the advantage of Bernie Sanders and Michelle Obama speaking in primetime. Night two was closer, with Dems drawing 18.6 million to Republicans’ 18 million. Presumably a rare speech from Melania Trump brought some casual viewers in. Last night … the bottom seems to have fallen out. It was a tough match-up for the GOP, with low-energy Mike Pence pitted against not just Obama but Kamala Harris’s introduction to the country.

Things should turn around tonight, as Trump’s a much bigger draw than Biden. For his sake, I hope they do: Short of losing the election, nothing would demoralize the president like losing a ratings war to the ultimate generic Democrat.

This evening’s other speakers include Rudy Giuliani, Ivanka Trump, and Tom Cotton. Why Ivanka on night four instead of Don Jr, you ask? Good question. He’s the one who’s popular with Trump’s base, after all, and he’s the one capable of delivering a crowd-pleasing stemwinder. To the extent the answer is more complicated than “Because Ivanka is the favorite child,” it’s probably a play for suburban voters. The entire convention has been aimed at softening Trump’s image insofar as it can still be softened, replete with testimonials from Kellyanne Conway and Kayleigh McEnany about what a caring person he is. There was even an honest-to-goodness uplifting naturalization ceremony. Republicans are throwing everything they can think of at suburban voters, especially women, to get them to warm up to him. Having the president’s moderate-Democrat daughter paint a portrait of what a loving dad he is serves that goal.

Why Tom Cotton instead of (or in addition to) Ted Cruz, you ask? Another good question. To my great amusement, it looks like Cruz’s invite to the convention was lost in the mail this year:

“They didn’t ask me to participate,” Mr. Cruz said in a phone interview from his home in Houston. “So, I’m not on the speakers’ roster.”…

Asked in the interview to make a convention-style case for Mr. Trump’s re-election on the spot, Mr. Cruz cited the “remarkable policy successes” of the last four years, paused for 12 seconds, then set off on an auditorium-ready, fully-composed celebration of tax cuts, deregulation and the “historic economic boom” that preceded the coronavirus.

Asked if Mr. Trump was making this argument effectively, the senator ruled: “Sometimes.” (Mr. Cruz made clear that he “would have been happy to” step to a microphone this week, if invited.)

Did Cruz get stiffed because he famously declined to endorse Trump during his 2016 convention speech? It’s hard to believe Trump would still carry that grudge after all the time Cruz spent kissing his ass over the past four years. He insulted the guy’s wife, he all but accused his father of conspiring in the Kennedy assassination, and this pitiful schlub still ended up being a loyal soldier for him. Cruz has appeared at rallies with Trump in Texas since then. Why wouldn’t Trump want him at the convention, if only to show off how his loyal servant has now come around to endorsing him four years later?

My pet theory, based on no evidence whatsoever, is that Cotton called in a favor from Trump by getting him to keep Cruz and Josh Hawley away from the convention. They’re his main competition in the populist lane of the 2024 primaries, after all. “Remember how I backed you up after Lafayette Park, defending the idea of invoking the Insurrection Act? Well, there’s something I’d like in return…”

As for why Giuliani’s speaking tonight, alas, no one knows the answer to that except Trump himself. It’s probably as simple as sheer loyalty to one of his most devoted cronies. Rudy clearly made a decision at some point in 2016 to go all-in on Trump because he saw it as his ticket back to political relevance. Whether that meant lawyering for him (badly) on Russiagate or digging up dirt (badly) on the Bidens in Ukraine, he did what he was asked. The least Trump could do as thanks is to give him a taste of that relevance he craves by putting him in front of a mic on night four. If Biden goes on to win this fall, this may be the country’s last meaningful encounter with a man who, many lifetimes ago, was once a national hero.

Here’s live Twitter commentary during the proceedings. The thread is open for comments. Exit question: Why have we ended up with so many pre-taped Republican speeches this week? Sure, that eliminates the chance that something can go wrong live, but it seems so un-Trump-like. (He actually mocked Democrats last week for using pre-taped speeches.) And it deprived the GOP of fully leveraging the riots in Kenosha by reworking the evening’s speeches to include references to them.