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ground game

The ‘I know you are but what am I’ convention

Donald Trump delivered an address in a videotaped message to delegates Tuesday at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.David Maxwell/European Pressphoto Agency

CLEVELAND -- Halfway through the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, the overall message is clear: Don’t vote for Republican Donald Trump, vote against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

A lot has been said about Trump in the last year. Words like misogynist, racist, carnival barker, anti-Semitic, and con man have been used to describe him, his comments, or his campaign.

But so far Republicans have not used their uninterrupted, nationally televised, primetime stage to paint Trump in a new light. Instead of chanting “Trump, Trump, Trump,” many delegates and speakers have followed another refrain: Put Hillary Clinton in jail.


It’s like an elementary school playground shouting match, when one kid lobs an insult, and the other responds with, “I know you are, but what am I?”

The focus on Clinton was particularly notable with a Trump family member who spoke on Tuesday night. Donald Trump Jr. criticized Clinton from the dais, calling her the “first president who couldn’t pass a background check” and “a risk Americans can’t afford to take.”

When New Jersey Governor Chris Christie or other Republican politicians speak at the RNC, the audience can expect a lot of partisan red meat. But family members are called upon to speak at the conventions in part because they can shed light on a different, softer side of the candidate. This more along the lines of what Tiffany Trump accomplished with her speech, during which she described a father who wrote supportive notes on her report cards.

Think of it this way: If Chelsea Clinton gives a speech at the Democratic National Convention, what’s the likelihood she would even utter Donald Trump’s name?

It is not surprising that the GOP convention has come to this. Delegates are divided about Trump and the future of the Republican Party, but they are united in their opposition to Clinton and Democrats.


Democrats are also divided -- although there is no #NeverClinton movement plotting to deny her the presidential nomination in Philadelphia next week. But the negative undertones of this convention might be a good path for Democrats. For many of US Senator Bernie Sanders’ supporters, it might be easier to get behind the notion of stopping Trump than backing Clinton.

James Pindell can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell or subscribe to his daily e-mail update at