After a couple of awkward joint appearances, U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, will make a show of their solidarity at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday despite a string of policy differences.
Pence, the keynote speaker on the third day of the convention in Cleveland, has been well received by people in the party’s social conservative wing who are skeptical of Trump’s commitment to opposing abortion and same-sex marriage but who trust his running mate.
Trump, 70, and Pence, 57, shared the stage only briefly on Saturday when Pence publicly agreed to be Trump’s vice presidential candidate. Their first televised interview together, on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” was not smooth.
Asked then about Pence’s support for the Iraq war while he was a U.S. lawmaker, Trump responded: “I don’t care,” saying Pence was allowed to make occasional mistakes. When the interviewer asked if Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton should get the same wiggle room on her own vote for the war when she was a U.S. senator, Trump said: “No.”
Trump, a New York businessman who has never held public office, is expected to face off in the Nov. 8 presidential election against Clinton, 68, a former secretary of state who is expected to secure the Democratic nomination at a party convention next week in Philadelphia.
For a third consecutive night, speaker after speaker drew cheers with their withering criticism of Clinton, hoping to become the first woman elected U.S. president.
“We need a president who is not afraid to say ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ And we need a president who will wipe ISIS off the face of the Earth,” Florida Governor Rick Scott said, referring to Islamic State. He also called for tough U.S. border controls.
“On every one of these measures, Hillary Clinton fails. She fails, she fails, she fails,” Scott said as the Quicken Loans basketball arena filled with cheers of “Lock her up,” a favorite chant of the convention.
Trump made an arrival in Cleveland on Wednesday befitting his larger-than-life personality, landing in a helicopter emblazoned with his last name on the tail. Playing over the loudspeakers was the soaring tune of the movie “Air Force One.”
Stepping off the aircraft, he greeted Pence and was handed a microphone. He told a crowd that Pence was “going to make an unbelievable vice president of the United States.”
“We’re excited to hear you address the nation tomorrow night,” Pence said. “I’m confident that what begins in Cleveland will end in the White House.”
Trump, who trails Clinton in opinion polls, was formally anointed on Tuesday evening as the White House nominee. The convention concludes on Thursday night when Trump accepts the nomination.
Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort said Trump and Pence had begun to mesh. “They may have different personalities but they have similar visions,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “I’m comfortable that it’s a less awkward situation than I’ve seen in many marriages.”
In an echo of Trump’s unorthodox journey from businessman and reality TV star to party standard-bearer, the choreography of the convention has been uneven, contrasting with what is generally a smoothly coordinated display of support for a party presidential candidate.
Cleveland police arrested 17 protesters on Wednesday during scuffles with demonstrators who tried to set an American flag on fire near the crowded entrance to the arena, the city’s police chief said. The arrests over three days total 22 people.
Largely overshadowing the convention has been a controversy over a speech Trump’s wife, Melania, gave on Monday night that drew accusations of plagiarism. On Wednesday, a staff writer for the Trump Organization took responsibility for the “chaos” caused by the speech.
KEY REPUBLICANS MISSING
Eminent Republicans such as the party’s previous two presidential nominees, Mitt Romney and Senator John McCain, and members of the Bush family that gave the party its last two presidents have stayed away from Cleveland in a show of displeasure at Trump and his rhetoric against illegal immigration and free trade.
Opponents brand Trump a bigot with his calls to temporarily ban the entry of Muslims and to build a border wall with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants.
Underscoring the problems Trump has faced with U.S. allies abroad, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Reuters on Wednesday that Trump threatened U.S. and world security with his “politics of fear and isolation.”
Several convention delegates called Trump’s choice of running mate a step toward uniting a bitterly divided Republican Party and working to build bridges with the party’s establishment.
Pence’s performance on Wednesday, and his public rapport with Trump, could help to sell hesitant Republicans on the duo.
Another potentially awkward moment could come when U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a leading former rival to Trump for the Republican nomination, speaks to the convention on Wednesday.
Cruz has not endorsed Trump and so far has given no indication that he plans to, following a bitter and personal primary campaign, in which Trump insulted Cruz’s wife’s looks and suggested the Texan’s father was with John F. Kennedy’s assassin just before the president was shot.
During the primary campaign, Cruz called the New York real estate developer a “serial philanderer” and a “narcissist.”
Manafort told reporters that Cruz was still working on his remarks.
“I’m comfortable that Senator Cruz is going to talk about his vision for America, themes that he’s talked about in the campaign,” Manafort said. “And I think he’ll say something, give a sign where he is on Donald Trump, that will be pleasing to the Trump campaign and to the Republicans.”
Manafort also told CNN he expected Cruz to have some role in the campaign in the future but was not sure in what capacity.