CLEVELAND (AP) — It’s Donald Trump’s moment to make his case to the country — and to the many rattled doubters in his own party.
Trump will close the four-day Republican National Convention with a speech Thursday night accepting the GOP presidential nomination. The most important speech of his life will bring down the balloons on a convention marked by divided loyalties and unwanted distractions.
Competing passions were sharply on display Wednesday night when Trump’s fiercest primary rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, stopped far short of endorsing the nominee and drew loud boos.
Mike Pence’s acceptance speech as Trump’s running mate was overshadowed as a result, one more missed opportunity at a convention with a daily drip of them.
Trump tweeted about Cruz’s speech: “No big deal!”
He said he saw the text of Cruz’s speech two hours before it was delivered but thought, “let him speak anyway.”
‘WATCHING AND LISTENING’
Cruz did not back down Thursday, telling his home state delegation he won’t vote for Hillary Clinton but making no promise to endorse Trump.
“I’ll be watching and listening,” Cruz said, but added: “I won’t sit down, shut up, support the team.”
Cruz and Trump have significant bad political blood between them. Trump nicknamed him, “Lyin’ Ted” and implied that Cruz’s father, Rafael, was somehow connected to President John F. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. Trump also criticized the appearance of Cruz’s wife, Heidi.
“I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father,” Cruz said.
READY FOR HIS MOMENT
Throughout his improbable race for the White House, Trump has been guided by the same instincts he’s relied on in a lifetime of audacious self-promotion, ambition and risk-taking.
Those instincts allowed a fabulously wealthy businessman to pull off a mind meld with the economic anxieties of ordinary Americans, elbowing aside the Republican A-team and breaking every rule of modern politics to become the party’s presidential nominee.
Trump’s team says he’s ready for the speech, which is expected to focus on the need for change and criticism of Democratic rival Hillary Clinton as the epitome of the establishment that should no longer rule politics.
“Her 25 years in the national spotlight are the 25 years where America has gone into decline,” campaign chairman Paul Manafort told Fox News. “It’s time for dramatic change — not just change where people promise changes and then go to Washington and do nothing.”
MAKE AMERICA ONE AGAIN
The theme of the convention’s final night is “Make America One Again.” Speakers scheduled to appear before Trump’s grand finale include Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal; Tom Barrack, CEO of Colony Capital; Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin; and Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University and a well-known evangelical leader.
Trump’s oldest daughter, Ivanka, will introduce the candidate. She will be the last of four Trump children to speak and is expected to highlight her father’s warmth beneath his rough edges and heart behind his bluntness.
Poised and polished, Ivanka is considered the campaign’s “secret weapon.” She introduced the celebrity businessman in June 2015, moments before he took his now-famous escalator ride at Trump Tower to announce his then-quixotic presidential campaign.
She recalled then her father urging her to “think big,” adding that that is how he approaches any task: “He thinks big.”
BOOS FOR CRUZ
Cruz arrived in Cleveland with an eye on his own political future, holding a large rally with hundreds of supporters who greeted him with chants of “2020” — the next presidential election.
The Texas senator held the crowd during the first half of his convention hall speech Wednesday night, as he urged Americans to support the families of five police officers killed in Dallas this month. But he lost many delegates when he told them to “vote your conscience. Vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.”
Speaking after Cruz, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tried to do damage control.
“In this election, there is only one candidate who will uphold the Constitution,” Gingrich said. “The only choice is a Trump-Pence Republican ticket.”
PENCE DEFENDS TRUMP
Pence praised Trump as his own man, an independent spirit, and said change in the country will be “huge” under his presidency.
Pence framed the November presidential race as crucial to defining the makeup of the Supreme Court for the next 40 years. He said voters must ensure it’s Trump picking the justices.
He called presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton the “secretary of the status quo,” referring to her former job as secretary of state.
Pence said he never thought he’d be standing on the stage at his party’s national convention. He joked that Trump is charismatic and must have been looking for balance in choosing him.
Two other failed Republican presidential candidates, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, addressed the crowd and supported Trump.
Trump’s son, Eric, also addressed the convention. He said his father is the one candidate for president “who does not need this job.”
OUTSIDE THE HALL
Cleveland police say 17 people were arrested Wednesday following a chaotic protest near the arena hosting the convention.
The arrests happened as a protest group tried to burn an American flag near Quicken Loans Arena. It was the most turbulent protest since the four-day convention began Monday. More protests are expected on the conventions final day.
Democrats will host their convention next week in Philadelphia, with an announcement of Clinton’s vice presidential pick expected as soon as Friday. Democrats familiar with the search say Clinton’s campaign has focused on Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Labor Secretary Tom Perez.
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