Trump vows to be voice of the American people

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a post Republican Convention campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio on July 22.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a post Republican Convention campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio on July 22.PHOTO: REUTERS

He pledges to champion 'forgotten men and women' in speech at Republican convention

Billionaire businessman Donald Trump pledged to be the voice of the American people, in particular those facing hard times, as he "humbly and gratefully" accepted the Republican Party's presidential nomination on Thursday night.

Speaking to thousands of supporters in the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, and millions more watching at home, Mr Trump promised to champion the country's "forgotten men and women", especially those who have fallen on hard times. "People who work hard but no longer have a voice. I am your voice," he said.

After a four-day national convention marred by a plagiarism controversy and missteps, the burden of uniting the party, while appealing to those outside the Republican base, fell on Mr Trump himself.

But experts say his singular efforts may not have been enough.

"Trump will likely benefit from a bump in the polls, but a fairly unmemorable speech will do little to put a tremendous amount of distance between the two candidates," said director of debate at the University of Michigan Aaron Kall, referring to Mr Trump and his Democratic rival, Mrs Hillary Clinton.

A Reuters-Ipsos poll on Thursday showed Mrs Clinton leading by only four percentage points, down from 15 points a week ago.

Although a draft of his speech had been leaked hours before it was delivered - a sign of a somewhat loosely organised campaign - a seemingly unfazed Mr Trump took to the stage to be greeted by a sea of red and blue signs that read: "Make America One Again", "Families For Trump" or the vanilla "Make America Great Again".

 

Over 75 minutes, Mr Trump spoke about the problems faced by America, including terrorism, illegal immigration, violence on the streets and a growing national debt. He went on to highlight various differences between his plan of action and Mrs Clinton's.

"The most important difference between our plan and that of our opponents is that our plan will put America first. Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo," he said.

At the first mention of Mrs Clinton, the crowd chanted "lock her up, lock her up", to which Mr Trump replied in a subdued voice: "Let's defeat her in November."

Associate professor of political science Melissa Miller from Bowling Green State University in Ohio said "such controversial chants" would not help the Republicans appeal to moderates, independents and women. They may have "projected anger and served only to galvanise the opposition" instead.

Experts noted there were attempts to reach out to various groups, especially the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, and woo supporters of former Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders.

He also used the recent shooting at a gay club in Orlando to bundle his support for the LGBT community with his rejection of terrorism, thus making it more palatable to a conservative audience.

"I think he has done enough to unite Republicans and he is going to get Democrats too. I hope people will see that we are not a bad party, we are a loving party," said Ms Sylvia Rowan, 69, a county clerk from New York, as she filmed the balloons falling from the ceiling marking the end of the convention.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2016, with the headline 'Trump vows to be voice of the American people'. Print Edition | Subscribe