It’s Trump time in Cleveland
Campaign 2016 | Donald Trump seals the Republican nomination, but foes continue to plot an uphill independent bid
by Jamie Dean
Posted 7/20/16, 12:51 pm
CLEVELAND—There’s a scene in All the President’s Men where Robert Redford hammers away at a clunky typewriter in the newsroom of The Washington Post while a flickering television screen carries live coverage of President Richard Nixon’s re-nomination at the 1972 Republican National Convention.
Delegates in the Miami Beach convention hall chant “four more years,” as Redford (playing journalist Bob Woodward) quietly pounds out work that will eventually lead to Nixon’s downfall in the Watergate scandal.
Last night in Cleveland, journalists hunched over thin laptops and tiny tablets glanced at a bank of flat-screen televisions in the bowels of this city’s sports arena, as Republican delegates nominated Donald Trump for president.
No signs of Watergate investigations here.
One reporter filed a blog post about whether Melania Trump plagiarized her prime-time speech from past remarks by first lady Michelle Obama. (This question dominated news coverage all day, despite a dramatic floor fight the afternoon before.)
A radio reporter on the other side of a blue curtain searched for the vilest clips he could find from a Ku Klux Klan protester in downtown Park Square earlier in the day. (Demonstrations in the public park grew nasty but stayed contained by flanks of police officers surrounding the square on horseback, bike, and foot.)
Behind a cubicle wall with open gaps, another press member leaned back in a chair and watched a movie on his computer: the opening scene from The Godfather, where visitors pay homage to the powerful Vito Corleone (played by Marlon Brando) at his daughter’s wedding reception.
Meanwhile, the Republican roll call continued, as Eric Trump announced the New York delegation cast 89 votes for his father, officially giving the business mogul enough delegates to clinch the GOP nomination. The crowd erupted into cheers and chants of “Trump” and “USA.”
A few blocks away, another scene was quietly unfolding.
In a narrow restaurant space near the city’s Warehouse District, a couple dozen men and women mingled over crab cakes and red wine, discussing another notion: Maybe they could still fight Trump.
This was a reception for the group Better for America, a non-partisan organization formed to explore the possibility of an independent candidate in this November’s election.
Over the din of live jazz music, Anne MacDonald, the group’s executive director, insisted it’s more than wishful thinking. She said the group has about 24 people on staff, and they’re in active discussions with several potential candidates considering an independent bid.
Will one of them run? “Absolutely,” she said.
In late July it’s hard to imagine mounting a serious independent bid to challenge two candidates with bulging campaign coffers, large staffs, and an infrastructure in place. But MacDonald said it’s not impossible, adding that her group is working the legal options to make sure an independent candidate could seriously compete in enough states to win.
The group won’t be the first to pitch an independent candidate.
Near the front door of the Cleveland restaurant, Bill Kristol, founder and editor of the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard, chatted with a couple of reception-goers before ducking out to the next event. Kristol made a brief splash last month by suggesting that David French, a columnist for National Review, should mount a presidential bid.
French considered it but ultimately declined. Some saw the episode as a disappointment that didn’t gain much traction and wondered if the prospects of an independent bid were officially over.
MacDonald said no, and suggested that we’ll hear more within the next few weeks. Will we recognize the name of the candidate the group proposes? She wouldn’t leak hints, but she said the organization recognizes the importance of name recognition.
In the meantime, members of the group will soon head to Philadelphia to make connections at the Democratic National Convention. Though Better for America was founded by former Mitt Romney fund-raiser John Kingston, MacDonald said they want to reach a broad swath of voters disaffected by both of the major party nominees.
“When you see a burning house—great leaders are people who would run inside the house and save the people inside,” she said. “We need someone to run inside the house.”