2016 Archives

GOP survives Cleveland day one despite embarrassments

Democrats make most of follow-up positioning

July 19, 2016

DALLAS (SMU)SMU experts are available for interview on all things related to the current state of the presidential race. Additional convention experts are available here.

Republican Party LogoREPUBLICANS HAVE AVOIDED GREATEST FEAR, SO FAR 
 

Jeffrey A. EngelJEFFREY ENGEL
jaengel@mail.smu.edu

Day one for the Republican Convention had its fair share of “off-the-track” moments, but as Engel reminds us, it could have been worse.

“What the Republicans are trying to avoid has very little to do with the party itself,” Engel says. “What they’re trying to avoid is 1968 in Chicago, when anti-war protestors and police clashed openly in the streets and that clash in the streets made its way into the party convention, effectively. We saw screaming matches, tear gas, people being beaten in the streets and fist fights on the floor.”

So while the roll-call disruption and charges that Melania Trump plagiarized Michelle Obama’s 2008 convention speech have been great distractions, the good news is that nobody has been punched in the nose.

“What I’m concerned is that, given this is a tense period in police relations with the public, we could see protestors against or for Trump or for or against black lives matter or simply someone who is intent upon demonstrating their right to ‘open carry’ in Ohio causing a general melee,” Engel says. “What is difficult to fathom for the Republicans is they can’t control everything that goes on outside the walls of their convention, so their nightmare scenario is other chaotic convention like Chicago in 68’.”

Engel is director of the SMU Center for Presidential History. He can discuss:

  • comparisons to past presidential races
  • foreign policy
  • presidential rhetoric 
   
Democratic Party LogoDEMOCRATS BENEFIT FROM HOLDING CONVENTION AFTER GOP 
 

Jeffrey A. EngelJEFFREY ENGEL
jaengel@mail.smu.edu

It’s long been tradition that the two major political parties alternate the orders of their conventions, with the Democrats going first every eight years and the Republicans going first for the presidential elections in between.

This year, the Democrats will look to make the most of that positioning.

“As a general principal, going second is in your advantage and the reason is you get to rebut and retort everything your opponents say,” Engel says. “If we look back in recent conventions, particularly 1988, 1996 and 2008, each time the party that went first got a big bump in the polls, but then the party that went second cut into the lead and one of the reasons is obvious: When people hear a convincing case, they’re convinced, and when you hear one side of the argument without interruption, it’s very convincing.”

Engel admits, however, that the “without interruption” bit might become a relic of a bygone age this year.

“In previous years, parties were remarkably respectful of whoever goes first, the other party goes quiet, and whoever goes second, the first party goes quiet, and I don’t anticipate that in the least this summer,” Engel says. “I anticipate Donald Trump will be live-tweeting during the Democratic affair. The difference is now candidates can use social media to reach voters instantly without journalists between them. Before, the reason for a convention was all the cameras in the world faced you at once. Now, you don’t need the cameras. Now you can tweet.”

Engel is director of the SMU Center for Presidential History. He can discuss:

  • comparisons to past presidential races
  • foreign policy
  • presidential rhetoric
 

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