CLEVELAND – Donald Trump brought momentum back to his campaign on Tuesday, clinching the nomination for president at the Republican National Convention after a day dominated by lingering questions about Melania Trump’s speech.
Speaking from the Trump Tower in New York via video, Trump thanked delegates for their support as he pledged to bring “real change and leadership back to Washington.”
“This is a movement, but we have to go all the way. I’m so proud to be your nominee for president of the United States,” Trump told a cheering crowd.
But it was U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan who electrified the crowd soon after Trump’s brief address — the cheers had faded a bit following a lengthy nominating roll call. Ryan — who didn’t immediately support Trump during the primary season — spoke at length about the need for change in the nation’s economy and security, at the hands of Democrats.
“What do you say we unite this party, at this crucial moment when unity is everything? Let’s take the fight to our opponents with better ideas – let’s get on the offensive and let’s stay there,” Ryan said. “Let’s compete in every part of America, and turn out at the polls like every last vote matters, because it will. Fellow Republicans, what we have begun here, let’s see this thing through. Let’s win this thing. Let’s show America our best and nothing less.”
The controversy over Melania Trump’s Monday speech — which contained some lines similar to first lady Michelle Obama’s 2008 convention address — clouded the day’s activities. But speakers Tuesday night did their best to turn the attention back on Donald Trump’s November rival.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took the convention stage to some boos. The sounds quickly faded as he launched a lengthy attack on Democrat Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama.
“I am here to tell you Hillary Clinton will say anything, do anything, and be anything to get elected president,” McConnell said. “And we cannot allow it.”
McConnell dubbed Clinton a flip flopper: “Friends, not since Baghdad Bob has there been a public figure with such a tortured relationship with the truth. Fortunately there is a clear choice before us. And it is not Hillary.”
Former presidential candidate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, also a former federal prosecutor, made his case against Clinton, which led many in the crowd to chant “lock her up.” Christie riled the crowd by asking whether Clinton was guilty for everything from the “disastrous overthrow of Qaddafi in Libya” to her “failure for ruining Libya” and her email scandal.
After Christie’s remarks, Clinton’s campaign sent out a pointed tweet, reminding followers about Christie’s own scandal: “If you think Chris Christie can lecture anyone on ethics, we have a bridge to sell you.”
Tuesday’s choice of speakers sought to outline the case against Clinton, and also to tout the importance of strengthening the Republican Party in America. But it also sought to continue painting Trump in a more personal light with speeches by his children Donald Trump Jr. and Tiffany Trump.
“Donald Trump has never done anything halfway, least of all as a parent,” Tiffany Trump, 22, said, while describing her father as charming, funny and “real.”
Donald Trump Jr., who directs new project acquisition and development for the Trump Organization, said his father, “his mentor,” understands working-class people, because he spent years pouring concrete and hanging sheet rock on construction sites. He painted him as a caring man who sees potential in people and gives others chances. He described his father as a billionaire who won’t favor a “special class of crony elites at the top of the heap.”
It was Trump Jr. who delivered the most detailed and politically motivated Trump family speech — calling Clinton “a risk Americans can’t afford to take” — as he spoke in length of the changes he believes his father can enact.
“His unrelenting determination is why he’s going to become our next president and why I know that when my father says he can fix the country, he means it,” Trump Jr. said.
Donald Trump Sr. on Tuesday evening clinched a majority of delegate votes to become the nominee for president, despite some earlier rumblings of yet another symbolic floor protest among some delegates.
Trump won’t officially accept the nomination until Thursday. Just before the billionaire businessman reached the magic delegate number, Trump’s children arrived on the convention floor with the New York delegation to watch the roll call.
New York, Trump’s home state, clinched the nomination, with Donald Trump Jr. officially announcing that the delegation was putting his father over the top.
Illinois cast 54 votes for Trump; nine for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and six for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. In his introduction to the vote, Illinois Republican Chairman Tim Schneider called Gov. Bruce Rauner “the finest governor in our nation.”
Trump needed the votes of 1,237 delegates. He garnered 1,725.