Cleveland, A packed Quicken Loans Arena largely emptied out after Melania Trump delivered an address that hit television airwaves in the heart of the nationally televised hour of 10 p.m. Eastern, leaving several speakers afterward to talk to a mostly empty room.
Most prominent among them was an up-and-coming star in the party ranks who was reported to be on Trump’s short list for vice president, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst.
Day One of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland began with a brief but intense intra-party feud between party leaders and some grassroots conservatives and delegates opposed to Donald Trump’s nomination, who attempted to force what could have been an embarrassing roll call vote over the convention’s rules.
It ended with speakers including Ernst, who was scheduled to speak in prime time, instead talking to a mostly empty arena and a vastly smaller cable television audience well after 11 p.m. Eastern.
Enrst’s speech was pushed back after several speakers before her went longer than expected, including retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a former Obama administration intelligence official who has been harshly critical of his former boss.
The tightly controlled nature of modern political conventions is largely meant to prevent the kind of flat notes Ernst, a female military veteran and first-term senator from a swing state, experienced. Instead, campaigns prefer a polished, television-friendly hour-long prime time presentation.
By the time Ernst walked on stage, many of the delegates still in attendance in the hall had been in their seats for more than four hours.
The Wall Street Journal reported one anonymous member of Ernst’s Iowa delegation about her being pushed off the national prime time broadcast called the timing problems “effing brutal.”
While few of the GOP’s delegates heard it in person, Ernst delivered a sharp rebuke of foreign policy under President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, his former secretary of state.
“Take a look at the pathetic track record Hillary and President Obama have,” Ernst said. “According to the FBI, ISIS is present in all 50 states. They will use whatever weapons they have … to kill innocent people. Under this current administration’s wayward policies will spread, while the president fails to put together a comprehensive strategy to defeat them.”
If the day ended with a yawn, it began with a bang as delegates opposed to Trump’s nomination and conservatives pressed the party to reopen the rules package adopted by the RNC last week.
The Never Trump movement had sought to allow delegates to vote their “conscience” rather than be bound by their state’s primary or caucus results. Conservatives led by Utah Sen. Mike Lee and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cucinelli also sought to reopen the rules debate in a bid to alter the bylaws by which the party will select its future nominees. They sought changes that would make it more likely for a fellow conservative like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who both men supported in the primary, to capture the nomination.
After 15 minutes or so of heated shouting on the convention floor and questions over points of order in the RNC charter, the measure to seek a roll call vote on the rules package was rejected and the rules as written were adopted.