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Can I point out that a lot of people might think it's not tacky to Ghostbusters, right? Like I mean, you know, people might not like your murder parasite house from which you taped the podcast, but like, some people might like it, so.
Hello and welcome to this late night reaction edition of the 538 Politics podcast. I'm Galen Droog. We've just wrapped up the fourth and final night of the Republican National Convention, capping off two weeks of conventions. We did it. I'm sure everyone is tired. We'll try to keep it short. Tonight, President Trump formally accepted the party's renomination for president. It was a prepared five thousand six hundred eighty words long, making it the second longest convention speech by an incumbent since World War Two.
It was a wide ranging speech, touching on lots of different policies which we can get into. It was also preceded by a speech from Ivanka Trump. His daughter, of course, aimed at softening the president's image. So let's discuss it all here. With me to do that, our editor in chief, Nate Silver. Hey, Nate, wait.
They're related, Ivanka and Donald. I know. I just wanted to make sure that I clarified who exactly Ivanka Trump was.
I believe her real name is Ivana. But Ivanka is a diminutive. Fun, fun fact dropping, you know.
Is it her mom's name? Ivana, correct.
Oh, she's the first two children are named for the parents. I like that name. Ivana. Interesting.
Well, you can name a child that as you've heard, senior politics writer Claire Malone is also with us. Hey, Claire Hagelin and managing editor Michael Cohen. Hey, Mike. Hey, Gailen. So we are going to have, of course, a podcast out this coming Monday. And we can review some more of what happened at the conventions and whether or not we've seen any movement in the polls since. So we'll try to keep things kind of concise this evening.
But I just want to hear, as I mentioned, it was a very long speech, touched on a lot of different things. What were your general takeaways from the evening, Mike? Kick us off.
I think my takeaway is that these conventions will go down as being largely not influential on the campaign and not one of the more kind of memorable convention sets in election history, modern campaign history. Nothing particularly stood out in in either convention. And I would include Trump's speech tonight. That actually was a fairly boilerplate. Lots of people were saying, and I agree kind of State of the Union speech like a State of the Union speech, I think in terms of policies, but also in terms of lines of attack on.
And Biden, you saw just the Trump campaign throwing a lot against the wall. It was kind of all over the place.
So for someone like me who's mostly interested in like, OK, what can we learn from this about the party and about how the Trump campaign is going to pursue the rest of the campaign? I don't know. I came away pretty confused.
I want better writing for the American people, policies aside, which I'm sure we'll talk about. It was just a terribly written speech. I think calling it like a State of the Union speech is even giving it too much credit. It's hard to write long. You need structure. The piece had no structure. There were no core thematic elements. It was not engaging. It was not engagingly delivered. It was a poor ending to a fine otherwise like fine night of television.
But I think overall, I'm glad that these conventions were revelatory about the empty forum that is the American Political Convention. We saw we saw the go go for the jugular, Claire.
No, it's I mean, it's true. We saw what it is, which is an infomercial on both sides. And, you know, it was in some ways, I think people deserve to, as we discussed on previous podcasts, see the way that the parties think of themselves. But ultimately, I'm not sure that they are particularly useful, as you know, what, eight nights of television viewing for people. Thanks for joining us.
Leave a review and a reading on. I don't get to weigh in. There was a long pause.
I think it was boring. Like it's the headline. It was frickin boring Trump speech. It could not pick a theme, which, as you were saying, is like a little bit interesting, given that there's not that much longer to go in the campaign are going from like early to late in a hurry here. They're kind of still doing like the grab bag and laundry lists of positive arguments and negative arguments.
You know, to Claire's point, they kept kind of circling back. It kind of really feels like when you're walking around some trails or driving around in the city, you know, you're like, oh, I remember that 7-Eleven from before. We saw that before, not from the same angle, but we saw that before that laundromat and whatever else place. I think it was like kind of an almost like inexplicable anticlimax, you know what I mean?
Well, maybe especially compared to twenty sixteen. Right, where we had this. I am your voice. I alone can fix it. It was a very. I think I think you're vastly overreading. How effective is 2016 speech was where you got very little to sort of write it, just like there is no reason not to pare this down.
Right. Because I didn't even, like, make the same. They're being repetitive. It was even like they said, like a long laundry list. They were saying everything twice. I mean, look, I thought the kind of non prime time. Our was actually pretty good tonight, I thought Alice Johnson was good, I think they've done I think it's maybe cynical, but probably smart to feature a lot of everyday Americans and non-white speakers.
I think the elected officials, except for Nikki Haley and Tim Scott on night one and Pence was actually fine last night, but they were mostly pretty boring. You know, Tom Cotton, I don't really see that charisma factor. And people think he's a twenty, twenty four nominee.
I think before Trump got up to speak, it was the theme that I could generally glom together was America's cities are burning. America's cities are run by Democrats. Democrats are bad for America. Look, all of these people of color are speaking just about how bad their lives are in democratic cities. OK, that was the pre Trump thing. I think the Trump like to go back to the comparison of Trump in 2016 and Trump in twenty twenty.
I think that Trump in 2016 was so new and to many people alarming and unconventional that even if, you know, we viewed his 2016 speeches in 2020 and we might think they were kind of like, oh, it's more of the same when we saw them. Like, I remember being in that convention hall in Cleveland and being like, what just happened? That was kind of crazy. He said, I alone can fix this. I remember being struck by that.
And tonight it again, it was long, but I think some of it is also we have tuned not tuned out, but it's it's just become so repetitive, the kind of things that he says that even if he had like a couple of lines that were like supposed to zing in part, yes, he should have cut all the chaff around the wheat.
But it just we're used to it. It's just it's lost some of its impact.
There's very little here that you don't see on a daily basis in the president's Twitter feed. Like, I, I, I do not think it would have been wise for the president to just have ad libbed for an hour.
It would have been more interesting. It had more upside I suppose. Right. But like it just kind of strange. I mean, I think you can compare the conventions. I think I think one thing Democrats did effectively is like they kept things pretty short and tight. You know, they may be able to finish his their convention was more virtual than the GOP. And we haven't talked yet. I'm sure we will everybody about like the setting at the White House, which is striking in several different meanings of that term.
Right. But this is not a campaign that is confident about its strategy. I agree with Claire that, like, if you pair it down, then the theme is kind of there are all these Democrat run cities that are burning and Trump will restore order.
There wasn't that much about Biden. There is some stuff. Right. But like you have to do some work to drill down to that theme. You have to drill some work. I guess if you want to say what attack was the most consistent on Biden, it was more like he's a Trojan horse for Bernie and AOC, but you have to do some work to drill that down.
Let me play devil's let me kind of halfway play devil's advocate here, even though I agree with much of this. So one is, you know, it's hard to write short as someone who's edited both Claire and.
Oh, you went there. No, I'm kidding. Oh, my God.
No, no, no. So this speech, I wonder if we're expecting too much from a convention speech. You know, what would it be?
The convention speech have looked like that would have been more successful. It would have been more focused. I think you guys are right. It would have been shorter. I think you guys are right. I think the Trump campaign's problem is focused on what maybe they would have focused on on this.
The cities are burning theme. Is that their best line of attack to pursue the rest of this campaign? Maybe they don't know that. And maybe maybe this speech was an exercise in let's try a bunch of different things, see what sticks and whatever sticks. That's what will that's what will grab and carry towards the finish line for the rest of the.
So this was so this was almost like a focus group for the message for the next it was the big focus group.
It was the big focus group. Were there on the lawn, not social distancing. Yeah.
So what it was about a 900 person event reportedly on the White House lawn. Of course, using the White House as a location in general. Is Norm breaking, considering that people don't usually use that workspace for the president, the people's house as a campaign tool of also work from home to work from home to work from home?
Well, if you're on YouTube, you can see I've clearly broken some norms down here hosting this podcast from my bedroom, but also.
We're in the middle of a pandemic, people weren't wearing masks, they were quite closely packed. I questioned early on in the night, you know, if this speech doesn't end up being newsworthy, either for being really good or him saying something highly controversial is the takeaway from the night that amidst a global pandemic where almost 180000 Americans have died, the president hosts a near two thousand person, not socially distant event on the White House lawn. I guess we'll have to see headlines like if you put it like that.
But that but if you put it like that.
But one of the ways they're put it truly, I'm being a smart ass. But like I mean, there there are two separate things here because they're both arguably important. One is using the White House as a prop in a way that like say what you want about Melania Trump's speech on Tuesday and the way they staged that in the Rose Garden. I guess it was right.
But that was like fairly tasteful within the bounds of, like, plausible deniability were like circumstances force us to use the White House. We're not going to have her go in audience completely, but will be discreet and fairly elegant and austere. This was the literal exact opposite of that, right? This was like the literal little caricature of when Barack Obama was like trying to roast Trump at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011 and had like the Godi Trump Hotel sign up over the White House.
Right. It's kind of what it looked like. Right. We have these giant Trump signs. You have like a literally a fireworks display over the Washington Monument that spells out Trump 20 20. It was satire almost. And, you know, I think you show there's like a lot of, like, media Pearl clutching over the Hatch Act, which you could almost imagine the Trump campaign saying, OK, let's distract from the panic. It's 100000 people and the racial protests, whatever else.
Right. And if all these people bring about the Hatch Act, this has visuals. We're like, I don't know how the average swing voter at home is going to feel about this. Right.
Because those are all of us, because because they don't want to see the White House in a political circumstance. It's it's tacky.
So what you're saying is the Hatch Act doesn't matter to voters, which I probably agree with, even though it should matter in general. But let's set that aside. And we're not lawyers. But you're saying just because of the sheer tackiness, can I point out that a lot of people think might think it's not tacky to Ghostbusters, right. Like I mean, you know, people might not like your murder parasite house from which you taped the podcast, but like, some people might like it.
So, yeah, I think I think you have this not quite backwards, but like half backwards. I think the Hatch Act is is important and is not Pearl clutching, although I agree. I don't think voters will will care about it.
I think the the setting on the White House voters won't care about either. And in fact. But why?
Because it's very traumatic. It may be upside, maybe downside. But yeah, it looked presidential. You've been to more than five weddings.
You will experience the range, a relative range of human tastes, things that some people think are tacky, some people think are the greatest thing in the world.
Like I don't think there's no accounting for taste, but it brings home the notion that Trump is using the White House in a way that is very political. So the subtheme that only esoteric journalists care about right now, you're actually going to test that proposition for better or for worse.
I love how you when you're trying to undercut my point and call me an esoteric journalist.
OK, so we're going to find out what Americans think about it. But, Michael, you were going to say something else. Yeah, right.
I think the actual problem with Trump's address isn't that it was long isn't out. It was at the White House. Isn't that it was all over the place.
I think it's that Trump and Republicans still do not have a cogent story to tell on the coronavirus. And that's the by by various polls, depending on how you ask the number one issue in the country, people are still dealing with it at every moment of every day. And they just don't have a story to tell that that is politically compelling and bears any resemblance to the truth. And that's that's a big problem. And when he talked about it, he was not very it wasn't an empathetic way, way of talking about the pandemic.
And I think maybe if there is a visual that could make news and could better, it'll be the the the lack of social distancing. I'm not sure off the top of my head what what protocols were followed, you know, whether or not everyone there was tested, but people weren't wearing masks. I mean, this is this is this is outdoors, which is a little better, a lot better not a mess, which is bad. I think the signal it sends, though, look, OK, maybe I'm going to get myself in a little bit of trouble here with certain people in the audience.
Right. I'm still kind of mad about the messaging around the protests and public health people being kind of blasé about the fact that you're sending a very different message on social distancing now where you say this is worth coming together for. And yeah, it's important. But, you know, I mean, we saw social justice decline in the U.S. after that. And Trump did his own version. I mean, he had a Tulsa rally at around that time.
Right. So I don't know when you have a signal that we're going to pretend like it's all normal, you can not only gather in crowds with a lot of clapping and screaming, you can also not wear masks. And we're not even going to pretend like it's an issue. I mean, apparently they tested people that were like sitting in the immediate orbit of VIPs, but not anyone else. Right. You know, I worry that the signal that sends is like, OK, we can forget about covid again.
And now we're just at the point now where cases have come down enough where it feels like, well, things are getting back to normal. Right. I think there's some chance that maybe not the rally itself. Right. I think people have often been wrong when they tried to pinpoint exactly how many cases occurred at this or that event. Right. But if the signal is now in this back and forth seesaw that, OK, you don't have to, you know, worry as much about social justice and stuff that could still send cold cases up again, which is bad for America and frankly, probably also bad for Trump's re-election campaign, because there are still plenty of time for there to be a third way.
We can debate that vocabulary wave, but another peak or a rise in cases before November.
I agree with that, Nate. I agree with all of that. I guess what I'm also saying, though, not to be not to be just crassly political, but is that OK? Let's say you had not seen any polling data for all of this election. And and you just I just sat you down in front of both conventions. Had you watched them, you know, beginning to end, what would you infer from each convention about the state of the race?
Would you at all infer that Trump is trailing by a sizable margin nationally and a meaningful margin in many swing states and that he was trying anything to close that gap? You know, like you got what I mean?
But Americans are going to are going to wake up tomorrow and they're not going to be let go of their job. If they still have a job, they may not be able to send their kids to school. They may not be able to look forward to their college football season depending on where they live. Right. The businesses they rely on, the restaurants I go to may be closed permanently. Right. You know, this kind of suspension of disbelief around covid, like doesn't really work very well.
I think that's the argument that Mike is making that.
Yeah, that that's what I'm arguing. Yeah. And that and that that combined with. We know, I think that the pandemic is having an effect on the election, it helps explain why Trump is trailing pretty meaningfully. And so. I guess I'm just surprised to Claire's point that, like, Trump didn't at least try a more empathetic rout or frankly, like I thought Ivonka speech, for example, was was pretty effective. She had a couple kind of empathy lines in there, but it wasn't a theme really throughout most of the convention.
I'm surprised they didn't they didn't try that Melania Trump speech.
Was just it was the most in line with with, frankly, the reality of the country right now, which is frankly a pretty sobering reality, I think that's what was out of whack for people in some ways, was that covid is the thing that drives our culture, that drives our economy, that drives our politics. And the lack of engagement with that reality on most of the themes in the RNC was striking and might strike voters.
Yeah, yeah. I mean, the really daring thing they could have said would be to do some version of like this is an unprecedented challenge. We made some mistakes. We also did some things well, but now we've turned the corner right. That's a bold message that is kind of a half true or even, say, set up.
If you're going to step out on the White House lawn, go set up all of the different vaccines that are being that are under trial right now. Go talk about all of the things that Americans like to look forward to, talking about all the things you're doing, even if it's got the action, an exaggeration and isn't literally you, but pharmaceutical companies. Right. Like, why not talk about these are all of the things we're doing to try to make your life immediately better because we're going to fix covid Ireland can fix it.
I think you could try what Nate said. I think you could try what Gaylan said. Honestly, I think you could even just going hard on empathy and admitting to no mistakes.
And it's just empathy, empathy, empathy. We're going to build it back. And and that would have been better. We're going to we're going to build it back.
But I think I think you just I think you just did the Biden campaign. Well, no, but a Trump campaign should be build back, best build back.
Best build back. Great again. Again.
OK, so I do have a couple of questions before we cut ourselves off for the evening. The first one being that in total, the Republican National Convention did not seem completely bass driven. It seemed like there were a lot of black Republicans making appeals to we aren't just driven by culture wars or racial resentment. In fact, Democrats have made that up. You saw lots of women.
You saw what seemed to be appeals to the college educated white voters that have been a challenge for Republicans over the past four years. Nate, you've often criticized Trump as making too many plays to the base. Wasn't this kind of an indication that the campaign they plan to run now has maybe broader appeal? No, I think it was a smart choice for the committee, and it's certainly not.
I mean, Galen, we have watched this president for three and a half years now, right. To assume any correlation between strategy on day one and strategy on day one plus N is foolish. I think the convention might be effective precisely because clearly this was not like Trump's strategy, I don't think. Right.
So we put people who were like, OK, to do a little bit of more conventional outreach to the center, despite Trump's best instincts or worst instincts, would probably be smart. Precisely because they did that. I think they might get more of a bounce they would. Otherwise or not. I have no idea. I mean, we'll get an anti bounce, but maybe they'll get a bounce, right. Do I have any confidence at all that that will be the theme even three days from now, even tomorrow?
No. So it's like because it's so unorthodox for the Trump campaign where they might actually get like some type of dead cat bounce. But like, I think they're going to pivot. I think it's going to pivot for the next 70 days or whatever it is.
I mean, I think that's pretty unlikely to I don't know, Claire's done with conventions.
I mean. I mean, some of it is also just like, what are you supposed to say about some of the stuff? You know, like like I think particularly on the the lack of covid acknowledgement or the really, really misleading, if not not factual talk about the course of the virus in in in America.
That stuff is surreal. I mean, I was I've been I've been reflecting that it's been like five years since I've been at five thirty eight. And it's it is surreal that this is the presidential election that we're in and that this is the campaign that we're covering. So it is like yes, I do like yes. We talk about the White House lawn stuff and yes, I've, I have the thing that it's a TV show, but there is some level of it where it's just really I kind of can't believe that this is like the convention.
Well, the the the the sheer number of falsehoods during Trump speech and during the the RNC was was amazing. Also, I had I said this on the live blog, but there was this moment where, you know, during the DNC, you saw speaker after speaker after speaker say Joe's just a decent guy, a decent guy like like that's the bar. Right. Right. And then during the RNC, it was like essentially like Trump. Trump is not mean.
Basically, he has shown me kindness and it feels like private moments. Yeah. Yeah.
When the camera's off, that is very telling about about the moment where in that that those are the bars. Right. But it's also. So Mike, I mean, that's a perfect way to put it. It's also so emblematic of the utter ruthlessness of these campaigns. I mean, these are systemic problems. They're not just like us systemic problems, their world health, systemic problems. So the fact that we've spent two weeks saying, like, this guy's a nice guy and this guy is a nice guy in private, it's like, great.
So two weeks later, it's 12, 20 in the early morning. And it's like they're still how many people dead and when's the vaccine coming out? And, you know, so so on some level, it's just like, well, and there it is. Right. Like, I don't know. Yeah.
And I think that's another way in which the conventions being mostly virtual and taped, actually made them even less useful and meaningful than they typically are. You know, a lot of people are saying, including I think I said and people on staff are saying, like the most compelling moments probably of both conventions were moments with with actual voters telling their stories. Those were also the most produced. And contrived moments like the most commercial, essentially commercials, right? And so if you're trying to just use the convention to learn about the party, to learn about the campaigns, to learn about what the party thinks of itself and its voters, then then everything being virtual and taped doesn't help you if you're just trying to learn.
I mean, it would have been very, very revealing, I think, to have seen the Trump campaign and the Republican convention respond in real time to the shooting of Jacob Blake and the protests and riots in Kenosha. That didn't happen. Now, do I think, you know, the convention would have been meaningfully different than the pretaped version? Probably not. You know, I don't think, you know, Republicans fundamentally don't think police killing black Americans is a systemic problem.
Right. That's not their position. But anyway, everything being virtual on pretaped, I do think made made both conventions even even less meaningful than than they typically are. And they're typically not all that meaningful.
So, I mean, there's there's a real. Suspension of reality with all the other news going on, ranging from Kenosha to the hurricane to the Kobe pandemic to even, you know, the NBA season getting canceled and then canceled, apparently based on the latest reporting. So the economy obviously. So, again, like I am not part of me, has an instinct that, like Trump might get a bounce out of this because like because like you are suspending.
Disbelief for eight hours or 10 hours of programming, right, but then, like kind of your snap back to reality and then maybe it's very ephemeral.
It's an awfully confident bet that Americans somehow forget about all this stuff until November or that things just get kind of objectively better by November, which may be is possible. But there are a lot of fronts that you're fighting on. Right? I don't think they did a ton of defining of Biden because one of their David versus Goliath strategy for losing is like, OK, just tear your opponent down. You know, there is some evidence that even though Biden didn't get much of a head to head poll bump, although there haven't been many polls, so we're still not totally sure his approval ratings did improve or they were really ratings.
Biden did improve a bit. His image improved. So Biden's image was bolstered. I don't think Trump had that coherent an attack to tear it down. One of the issues with this, like Trojan horse attack is like you're kind of conceding that Biden himself is not a bad guy, but he's a Trojan horse for Nancy Pelosi or whatever. That's a non-trivial concession to try a little bit of Hunter Biden with Pam Bondi. But that kind of came and went.
Right. A little bit of sleepy Joe. He's not up to the job, kind of. Giuliani was saying that. Right. But like having had trouble landing punches on Biden, that part of it could have been quite a bit more focus.
All right. Well, we will see where all of this takes us in terms of the polling. Of course, we'll be back on Monday with our regular podcast. But as we've mentioned, it's late. It's already Friday and we will leave things there. So thank you, Nate, Claire and Micah. Thanks, Galen. Bounce or no bounce? Come on, bounce. No bounce. Really quick bounce. Bounce, small bounce. I don't know.
I say bounce to if he doesn't get it bounce then he's in trouble.
All right. Fair enough. I'll put it like that. We'll leave it there. And before we go, make sure to check out five thirty eight store where you can go get all kinds of 538 March. We do not yet have plush stuffed animals of Firefox, but maybe someday that's 538 dotcom storm. My name is Glenn Drew. Tony Chow is in the virtual control room. You can get in touch by emailing us at Podcast's that 538 dotcom. You can also, of course, tweeted us with any questions or comments.
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