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The nomination night message Trump is aiming to hit home

Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill speak with New York Times columnist David Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report about the Republican ticket, Donald Trump’s convention speech challenge and how running mate Mike Pence’s calming demeanor is just the ‘Pepto Bismol’ he needs.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And from there, we go to our team of analysts here in the booth, who are with us all evening and all week and next week, David Brooks of The New York Times, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

    So, let’s talk a little bit about what you heard.

    David Brooks, Mike Pence and Donald Trump?

  • David Brooks:

    Pepto-Bismol. He calms things down.

    And so he’s a very conventional conservative, very — pretty orthodox conservative, somebody who’s been involved in Republican circles forever, has such a sweet disposition. And so he takes the things Donald Trump says and he sorts them, makes them seem normal.

    And one of the things the Trump campaign has got to do is try to make him seem like a normal candidate. And Pence has managed to be good at that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Amy?

  • Amy Walter,

    The Cook Political Report: And he’s incredibly on message.

    This is the one person you don’t have to worry about freelancing. What we have seen at this convention and what we saw from some of the other candidates who were sort of in the race for vice president, like Newt Gingrich, they’re going to go off on their, sort of riff on their own sort of tangent.

    Mike Pence is going to do what the Trump campaign needs him to do, period, exclamation point. The other thing that Mike Pence does besides soothing the edges of Donald Trump, is he soothes a lot of candidates down-ballot.

    You can send Mike Pence to any one of these battleground states where the Senate majority is on the line, and candidates are going to want to stand with him, even those candidates who aren’t going to show up at a Trump rally.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    Mark, you have to listen carefully to Judy’s conversation with Mike Pence to realize that sometimes he’s actually disagreeing with the guy whose ticket he’s on.

    But — so when he says he’s going to go and have a heart-to-heart with him whenever they have mild disagreements, not that people care if vice presidents and presidents agreed all the time, does that mean he can make a — that he can engineer a change of heart if he feels strongly about something?

  • Mark Shields:

    Probably not. That’s not the historic role of vice presidents.

    They don’t have that much influence on the presidential candidate who has won the nomination and given them — the only person that has a vote in the vice presidential nomination is the presidential candidate.

    But I do want to say about Mike Pence, it’s the first Reaganesque figure we have seen at this convention.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    What do you mean?

  • Mark Shields:

    In the sense of Ronald Reagan was an upbeat, reassuring and civil and just appealing figure.

    In the conversation with Judy, there wasn’t the adversarial. There wasn’t the chip on the shoulder. That’s not part of Mike Pence. And I thought his speech last night was quite Reaganesque in the sense of putting a smiling face on conservatism, which has been missing this week.

  • David Brooks:

    It should be said this is not like the distinction between Joe Biden and Barack Obama or Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

    This is not like, oh, we have got two normal guys, they’re in the party and they have some differences. This is here and here. Ronald Reagan was an upbeat, market-oriented, outward-looking, sort of optimistic, future-oriented politician.

    Donald Trump is a fear-oriented, backward-looking, closed-in politician.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    Let’s talk about a lot of other things going on tonight, because, tonight, we’re going to hear from Donald Trump, the big nomination acceptance speech.

    And all day long, it’s been kind of overshadowed by what Ted Cruz did last night. They’re not talking about Mike Pence. They’re not talking about even what Donald Trump is expected to do. They’re talking about the fact that Ted Cruz kind of poked the candidate in the eye.

    Amy.

  • Amy Walter:

    I have never been at a convection where as much time and energy was expended on what’s going to happen in the next election than what’s going to happen in this one.

    And while Ted Cruz did it most aggressively by basically coming out to somebody’s party and, you know, just spilling the drinks everywhere, every other candidate has also gone up there and done a much more subtle way of saying, you know what, I have a different vision of where our country is going and a different vision for where the party needs to go than Donald Trump does. I’m going to stand up here and say that he’s the nominee.

    That doesn’t mean they’re all lining up behind him. This last day, though, this is Donald Trump’s day. He’s not going to rescue this convention. It’s still going down in history as being unconventional and disruptive.

    But he has a chance here to make a good impression. And I think the good news for him is that the bar is much lower than it was before we started this.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mark Shields, what is the burden for Donald Trump tonight? What does he need to do?

  • Mark Shields:

    Well, oh, sure.

    Well, the burden — just one quick thing on Ted Cruz, and that is, he had a chance, like Ronald Reagan did in 1976 in Kansas City, to make the case for electing — or, you know, really separating himself as a distinct political figure. He chose not to.

    And as Jeb Bush and John Kasich chose not to endorse and honor their pledge to endorse, they stayed away. He came to the room to do it, high-risk politics for him.

    As far as our nominee, Donald Trump, tonight, Judy, he’s got to excite his base. He’s got to unite the country. It’s a mood for change in the country. But the problem with Donald Trump is that the change he represents, to a majority of Americans right now, is not reassuring. It’s unreassuring.

    And I think that’s his job tonight, and especially to lay out a jobs program.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    David Brooks?

  • David Brooks:

    First, on Cruz, if I can get my bite in, I start with the proposition that Trump is not a normal politician.

    He doesn’t cross the threshold, and this is going to end very badly for him, either in November or beyond. And if you start with that premise, then what Ted Cruz did, while nakedly ambitious, was courageous and probably the right thing to do. If your party is sliding into some sort of chaotic land of hollowed out, then if you stand before history and yell stop, you will be rewarded in years and years to come, in the way that none of the others will be.

    As far as Trump, he has picked law and order as his theme. And so he has got to persuade Americans that their fundamental problem is violence, and that crime and terrorism are the first things on their agendas affecting their lives, and, therefore, they need a guy like him. I’m not sure that’s true, but I think that’s more less the task he has assigned himself.

  • Gwen Ifill:, we have a lot more to talk about, if you need more, which I’m sure you do. Tune in later tonight, beginning at 8:

    David Brooks, Mark Shields, Amy Walter, thank all you very much.

    Well00 p.m. Eastern time, for our special NPR/”PBS NewsHour” coverage of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

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