What conventions tell us about Trump, Clinton and the parties

Jeffrey Engel, director of SMU's Center for Presidential History, talks about how the way Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are managing their campaign

By Dan Nowicki
The Republic

PHILADELPHIA — It was hard to miss the dramatic contrasts between the Democrats' and Republican's national conventions.

The four-day spectacles, which offer an opportunity for the presidential nominees and their parties to present their best face as the general-election battle begins, seemed to be held in different Americas.

One, a foreboding place besieged by terrorism and violence. The other, a nation with struggles but where people of different backgrounds can overcome problems by working together.

Either group, it seemed, might not recognize the picture of the United States that the other portrayed. . .

"One of the things that's really crucial about modern conventions is that they are scripted and this is a moment where you have the opportunity to tell your story in your words, with basically no counterpunch or counterpoint from your adversaries," said Jeffrey Engel, director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University in Texas. "The Democrats have done a very effective job of doing that while the Republicans basically demonstrated just how chaotic the Trump campaign has been and likely continues to be." . . . 

Engel said the sloppy handling of the Melania Trump speech and the clumsy roll-out of veep pick Mike Pence are emblematic of the way the candidate is running his campaign. . . 

"It really just shows a lack of control, I think is the best way to describe it," Engel said. "It really reinforces the point that Trump is trying to do a national campaign with what is essentially a skeleton staff. He is trying to manage this all from his own Twitter account."

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