Wilson says the third night of the Republican National Convention went swimmingly, except for that moment it went off the tracks.
“Everything other than the Cruz speech went well last night – but other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” Wilson says. “The Cruz theatrics became the story and overshadowed everything else that was really quite good. Far and away the most important thing that happens this week is Trump’s speech tonight. That will be the lasting impression and message from this convention, whatever Trump says.”
The state of the campaign could go from bad to worse if Trump picks up where he left off in a New York Times interview Wednesday night. In the interview, he said he might not defend NATO allies if they’re attacked by Russia.
“It is the kind of forehead-slapping recklessness that has characterized the Trump campaign throughout,” Wilson says. “One of the standard Republican attacks with a lot of validity is that Barack Obama has created uncertainty among our allies about how committed we are to them, but if you make that criticism, you can’t turn around and say, ‘We may or may not defend or NATO allies.’”
“It’s the kind of uncertainty that, projected into world affairs, can be very destabilizing,” Wilson adds. “So that is problematic.”
Honing back in on last night’s Cruz speech, Wilson says the person it likely hurt most is Cruz himself.
“There will be a bit of sympathy and rallying to Trump among conservatives because of Cruz’s speech,” Wilson says. “On the other hand, it does give the impression to people outside the party that these guys don’t have their act together, this party is in chaos, and that’s obviously not a positive image going forward.”
“Cruz did himself a lot of harm,” Wilson adds.
Wilson is an SMU associate professor of Political Science. He can discuss;
- religion and politics
- political psychology
- voting behavior of religious voters
- public opinion and politics