It’s only proper that we honor our nominee by using his own nomenclature. The theme this evening is ostensibly “Make America First Again” but the line-up seems to come from some other dimension in which conservatism won big this spring instead of being roundly crushed. On tap: The guy who led the 1994 Republican revolution; the guy who crushed the unions in Wisconsin; the superhawk from Florida; the would-be Reagan from Texas; and, oh yes, the very conservative (until he’s under pressure) VP nominee from Indiana. If I didn’t know better, I’d guess the actual theme was “Make America Conservative Again.”
Nah, I’m just kidding. The theme tonight is the same as it was the last two nights: “Anyone But Hillary.”
The point of jamming all the conservatives together, I assume, is to amplify the “unity” pitch to anti-Trump Republicans as much as possible. Every man up there, to some greater or lesser extent, will be exploiting his conservative credentials towards the goal of winning votes for Donald Trump. Gingrich, of course, is deep in the tank and has been for months. Pence is onboard because his new duties require him to be. (Here’s a good line that sums up his role on the ticket.) Walker, surprisingly, is also planning to endorse tonight after resisting Trump for months, even though Trump has failed to meet Walker’s own litmus tests for support. Rubio originally planned to attend the convention and speak, then backed out once he decided to run for reelection, then agreed to submit a videotaped address; it looks like he’s trying to feel his way towards the same unhappy compromise that Cruz has made in trying to be a good soldier for the party without getting too much of Trump’s smell on him ahead of 2020. Rubio and Cruz want to be able to argue simultaneously that they never went all-in for Trump and that they did their part to get him elected in the expectation that their own critics will do the same for them if they’re the nominee in 2020. Cruz has decided to speak live without explicitly endorsing Trump; Rubio has endorsed him but won’t speak live. Too clever by half in both cases.
As for Lyin’ Ted, you know where I stand. I’m less interested in his flowers-in-the-rubble “Up With Conservatism” speech than I am in how the crowd receives him. He’ll have many fans on the floor but Trump advocates like Gingrich, Christie, and Huckabee have been needling him lately by insisting that every speaker should endorse the nominee. Will Trump fans in the arena make a stink when Cruz pointedly refuses to use the E-word? Will Team Trump have some fun with him by putting this tweet up on the big screen behind him? (No, but they should!) Paul Manafort said earlier today that the Trump campaign has been advising Cruz on his speech tonight before adding, cryptically, “I think he’ll say something that will [give a side] of where he is on Donald Trump that will be pleasing to the Trump campaign and to Republicans.” That means something short of a literal endorsement but close enough to one to make Trumpers happy. My prediction: Cruz will say he’s “Never Hillary” and leave it at that. We’ll see if I’m right. Here’s your Twitter widget for live commentary during the speeches by the Hot Air/Townhall/Red State staffs.