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Trump’s GOP opponents get nowhere fast at convention

On the opening day of the Republican National Convention, Trump forces beat back efforts to knock the candidate from the nomination, confirming this is the party of Trump. Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff talk to syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

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  • Gwen Ifill

    : And we pick it up there with syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks, joined tonight — special treat — by Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

    Welcome, everybody.

    Another convention. Another four years, another convention.

    Let’s start by talking about what we’ve seen happening playing out already on the floor today. They have only been in for a few hours. They’re on dinner break now.

    But, David, there was kind of a little bit of an uprising. And various Trump supporters and mainstream people like Paul Ryan have been going around today trying to say, where is the party, where is the party?

    Where is the party?

  • David Brooks, The New York Times:

    It’s not united, but it’s not opposed.

    And that is to say, there is a lot of disagreement here, but there’s no opposition to Trump. And, as we saw today, as we have seen all year, really, the Trump forces are willing to take more risks than the anti-Trump forces.

    And so what happened today was that a bunch of people were on the verge of confronting the party, what is now the Trump party establishment. And they sort of got beat back, partly by strong-arm tactics, partly by pressure, oh, we can’t help Hillary, and they got beat. And so it’s a question of morale and courage. And the Trump people have it.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Amy, do you think they’re likely to pull themselves together by the end of this week?

  • Amy Walter, The Cook Political Report:

    The anti-Trump forces? This has been a problem with the Never-Trump movement, is that they have always had an antagonist in Donald Trump. They have never had a protagonist.

    They have never had somebody who is going to fill the space. If not Trump, then who? And so wanting to be a different party, wanting to have a different kind of candidate, that’s fine, but put that person forward.

    I also think that this has been the goal of this convention, is not necessarily what happens down there on the floor, but what happens after this convention? Will we see a party that looks more united among voters?

  • Gwen Ifill

    : How does this compare, Mark, to conventions we have all sat around the table and talked? I have never seen anything quite like that over something as obscure as the rules of the convention.

  • Mark Shields, Syndicated Columnist:

    Well, last time I saw something like that was 1980 in New York, when the Kennedy people opposing Jimmy Carter’s renomination tried to turn it into a moral issue, that delegates should be able to vote their own conscience, which is philosophically interesting, but politically indefensible, because you run as a Cruz delegate or a Trump delegate.

    I’m not running for Mark Shields in most places.

  • Gwen Ifill

    : You would have my vote, Mark Shields.

  • Mark Shields

    : And I appreciate that. But it’s a rationalization.

    The problem for the anybody-but-Trump group is, it’s been a concept without a candidate. They have never had — they have never been able to put a face. They can agree that there ought to be somebody, but they can never agree who that somebody is.

    And the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll show that 38 percent of Republicans are satisfied with this choice. So, there is a major task this week, not as much in the hall, but in the country, to unite the party, to unite the campaign.

  • Gwen Ifill

    : And, David, how much does Pence — how much help does Mike Pence bring in that regard?

    (CROSSTALK)

    (LAUGHTER)

  • David Brooks

    : This is — one of the things — the weird thing about this party, it’s not a normal party. It’s one person.

    The campaign is one person. And whether Trump is disciplined or not is really the story here. What I’m finding is, as everybody tries to get him to tone himself down, he gets Trumpier. And so he…

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Trumpier.

  • David Brooks

    : Gave a rally in Cincinnati where he was just off into weird land, doing free association.

    And let’s face it. The Pence rollout session was one of the weirdest vice presidential rollout sessions in presidential history, where the candidate could not keep his focus on his subject, which was Pence. But he just — gravitational pull, he had to talk about himself. And if he’s going to do that for the next few months, then there will be no shared campaign. It will just be Donald Trump on a one-man band.

  • Gwen Ifill

    : Well, Donald Trump, one-man band and his staff.

    We saw Paul Manafort, his — I guess he’s his campaign manager. I don’t think he has an official title.

  • Mark Shields

    : No.

  • Gwen Ifill

    : Criticizing the governor of Ohio, who is not at this convention here in Ohio, and actually saying pretty harsh things about him.

  • Amy Walter

    : Well, not only that.

    If your issue is unity, and Paul Manafort came out — we were at his press conference yesterday — he said, that is going to be the goal.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Gwen Ifill

    : That was today.

  • Amy Walter

    : That was today. Today is unity day.

    And then you come out and hit the governor of Ohio, who you beat, and say that it’s a mistake for him not to be there. He’s getting in a Twitter war, Paul Manafort is, with the Ohio state Republican Party chairman.

    Again, you may not — you may see them as the establishment and part of the problem, but it would be at least good not to antagonize them. And this has been the problem all along, which is, this is a campaign, it looks like beyond just Donald Trump, but into his campaign manager, too, they are not magnanimous winners. They are not gracious losers.

    And that’s going to make it hard for at least a certain segment of the population, you know, the Republican electeds, at least, to get around him.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Mark Shields, not only going after John Kasich, but after the Bushes. I was at that briefing today with Paul Manafort.

  • Mark Shields

    : That’s right.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : He was very critical of George W. Bush and his father for not being here.

  • Mark Shields

    : Well, you want to be humble in victory and proud in defeat.

    And you want to be seeking converts, and not heretics. And it seems that the first 24 hours, they’ve been looking for heretics, banished to the outer darkness, the Bushes and John Kasich, when they ought to be saying, I’m confident they’ll come over. They’ll be convinced by this convention. They will join us, that it will be great, and I look forward to their support on Columbus Day or Labor Day or wherever.

    You don’t start punishing people.

  • Gwen Ifill

    : Except, when have we ever seen that from this campaign? The one thing Donald Trump keeps saying is, hey, this worked. I beat 16 of them, so why should I change now?

  • David Brooks

    : Yes.

    I would say two things are happening. They’re running an objectively bad campaign, and the world is conspiring to help Donald Trump, because if — we got the violence in Nice, we got violence in the streets in America.

    And if you wanted a cultural climate where an authoritarian figure was going to be — people might flock to him, this is that climate.

  • Mark Shields

    : I agree.

    But just to come back to what Peter Hart, the Wall Street Journal/NBC pollster, said, he said this is a change election, and there is no question. And we’re having earthquake after earthquake, aftershock after aftershock.

    But in a change year, Donald Trump has become the chaos candidate. And that’s what he can’t project is chaos. And there has got to be order and discipline and a sense of magnanimity, as Amy mentioned. And I just think that’s what’s missing. And if that’s not here this week, it is going to be a severe body blow to his chances.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : But, Amy, what we hear is that they’re going to try to tie all this chaos in the world and here in this country with the violence we have seen in the last weeks directly to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

  • Amy Walter

    : Well, listen, there’s a good case to be made by Republicans…

  • Mark Shields

    : That’s right.

  • Amy Walter

    : … that a Democratic administration has not taken care of — or what they’re going to argue is they have actually exacerbated the chaos in the world. And there is a good case to prosecute there.

    They just have a very terrible person doing the prosecuting at this point, in part because — and I think this is the most important thing he needs to do here, is look like the kind of person who has the temperament to be able to make these sorts of decisions in times of crisis in a very chaotic world.

    And I think that’s the most important thing that he needs to do. All the talk about unity is nice and fun, but at the end of the day, if he comes out of here with more voters saying, you know what, I can see him now, give him — I can see the opportunity for him to lead in a time of crisis.

    Right now, it’s not there. The polls are not showing it. That’s what this is about.

  • Gwen Ifill

    : Well, we have a convention opening tonight. And we’re going to hear from Rick Perry, someone who actually did endorse him.

    We’re going to hear from other people who ran against him and endorsed him. We don’t know where Chris Christie has gotten to, but we are going to hear from other people. And in the end, this may be just a typical convention, albeit with a couple of sitcom stars added in.

  • David Brooks

    : Well, Scott Baio, let’s not underestimate the — and that guy from “The Bold and the Beautiful,” whatever his name is, that guy.

  • Mark Shields

    : That guy. That guy.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : “Charles in Charge.”

    (LAUGHTER)

  • David Brooks

    : But it is — it’s actually kind of weird.

    Like, we come here and you think Trump has changed everything.

  • Gwen Ifill

    : No.

  • David Brooks

    : The stage, it looks like a normal convention stage. The crowd looks like a normal convention.

    The one thing that is different, as you talk to people in the delegations, for a lot of people, this is their first convention. There really is recycling of the human — the people who are here, this is their first time for a whole chunk of them.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : Some people very happy, proud, they say, that there aren’t many politicians here.

  • Amy Walter

    : And that’s another difference, is that all the establishment folks that would be hosting parties, or we’d be going to press conferences and talking to and using as sources, none of them are here today.

    And that’s exactly what Donald Trump is arguing, which is, that is a segment of the party that has failed them.

  • Judy Woodruff

    : All right, thank you all.

    We will see a lot of you over the next two weeks, Amy Walter, David Brooks, Mark Shields.

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