Struggle to unify GOP evident as convention opens


Donald Trump promised a “monumentally magnificent” display of at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, which kicked off Monday. But the early hours of the gathering were marked by a struggle to unify the party around the flamboyant presidential candidate.

Republican Party leaders approved rules for the convention and rejected demands from anti-Trump delegates for a state-by-state roll call vote during the afternoon session. In response, hundreds of socially conservative delegates yelled angrily from the convention floor.

Convention organizers hope to better project party unity Monday evening with an eclectic group of prime-time speeches from Trump’s wife, Melania Trump, military leaders and entertainers such as Willie Robertson, star of Duck Dynasty. The theme of the night is “Make America Safe Again” against the backdrop of violence and unrest in the United States and around the world.

What to know about the first day of the convention:

THE RUCKUS INSIDE

Though they expected to lose, delegates opposing Trump had demanded a roll call vote to approve convention rules. The drawn-out vote could have exposed party divisions.

During the afternoon session, those opponents shouted “Call the roll, call the roll,” as Trump supporters and party loyalists chanted back “USA! USA!” Some delegates left the convention floor after the convention’s presiding officer, Arkansas Rep. Steve Womack, shut down the opponents by saying the rules had been approved by a voice vote.

The dissident delegates had earlier collected enough signatures on petitions to force a roll-call vote, but Trump supporters persuaded some delegates to remove their names.

___

THE RUCKUS OUTSIDE

Amid anticipation of protests, there were no reports of any major clashes between pro- and anti-Trump forces during the two biggest demonstrations on Monday’s schedule. There was at least one dustup involving right-wing religious demonstrators who got into a shouting match with some of the anti-Trump protesters.

Several hundred Donald Trump supporters and opponents held rallies a half-mile apart as the four-day convention opened with police on edge during a summer marked by violence. A few Trump backers openly carried guns as allowed under Ohio law.

The deadly truck attack in France and the ambush killings of five police officers this month in Dallas and three more in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, over the weekend heightened fears of bloodshed. About 600 Cleveland officers were assigned to convention security duty along with thousands of officers from other agencies.

Trump has seized on the instability, casting recent events as a direct result of failed leadership by President Barack Obama and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who spent four years in the administration as secretary of state.

___

ATTEMPTS AT UNITY

Party leaders tried to emphasize unity amid the discord. Taking stage immediately after the angry rules fight on the floor, Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso cheerily asked the crowd, “Who’s proud to be an American?”

Uniting the crowd is scorn for Clinton. Convention speakers planned to relentlessly paint the presumptive Democratic nominee as entrenched in a system that fails to keep Americans safe. Trump was also assuring party leaders and voters alike that there’s a gentler side to what many see as merely a brash businessman.

Trump’s team insists that the party will end the week united in their mission to defeat Clinton. But campaign officials undermined their own effort Monday by picking a fight with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is not attending the convention and has yet to endorse Trump. Campaign manager Paul Manafort called Kasich “petulant” and said the governor was “embarrassing” his party in his home state.

House Speaker Paul Ryan continued to take shots, as well: “He’s not my kind of conservative,” he said of Trump at one convention event.

___

THE EVENING SPEECHES

In an unusual move, Trump is scheduled to appear Monday night to introduce his wife, Melania, who has been largely absent from the campaign trail. Traditionally the candidate doesn’t appear until the last night of the convention in an effort to build suspense.

The night’s theme is making America safer and speakers will include anti-immigration advocates and a Marine who fought in the Benghazi attack that occurred during Democrat Clinton’s tenure at the State Department. Clinton is expected to be nominated at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia next week.

Other speakers include Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, one of the first politicians to endorse Trump.

Entertainers taking the stage include actor Scott Baio and Willie Robertson, star of Duck Dynasty.

___

WHO’S THERE — AND WHO’S NOT

Around 50,000 GOP delegates, alternates, lawmakers and guests are converging on downtown Cleveland, along with close to 15,000 journalists from around the world.

Some prominent establishment Republicans, including many up for re-election this year, are skipping out of apparent concern that being associated with Trump may hurt their own standing with voters.

GOP Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Mark Kirk of Illinois and John McCain of Arizona — all on November’s ballot —bowed out. So did Mitt Romney, the party’s most recent presidential nominee, and the party’s two most recent presidents, George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush.

___

THE PLATFORM

The party also adopted a platform that Christian conservatives are cheering as the most conservative statement of party policy principles in recent memory. It reaffirms the party’s opposition to gay marriage and bathroom choice for transgender people.

And there’s new language condemning same-sex parenting: “Children raised in a traditional two-parent household tend to be physically and emotionally healthier, less likely to use drugs and alcohol, engage in crime or become pregnant outside of marriage.”

The party’s platform represents the GOP’s formal policy positions for the next four years. The document serves as guidance for Republican leaders across the nation, but is not binding.

___

THE REST OF THE WEEK

The roll call vote on the nomination is expected Tuesday, with Trump scheduled to close the convention with an acceptance speech Thursday night. Vice presidential pick Mike Pence, the Indiana governor who left Indianapolis for Cleveland on Monday, is to speak Wednesday.

The focus shifts Tuesday to jobs. Trump children Tiffany and Donald Jr. plan to speak, as does Ryan and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who Trump passed over to be his running mate. Pence will headline the Wednesday session that focuses on how “Make America First Again.”

Daughter Ivanka Trump will introduce her father on Thursday, the convention’s final day.

___

What political news is the world searching for on Google and talking about on Twitter? Find out via AP’s Election Buzz interactive. http://elections.ap.org/buzz