CLEVELAND, OH– Donald Trump is nearing the most important moment of his life.
Trump will formally accept the Republican presidential nomination Thursday with a speech that will blame Hillary Clinton for “bad instincts and bad judgment.”
“America is far less safe — and the world is far less stable — than when Obama made the decision to put Hillary Clinton in charge of America’s foreign policy,” he will say, according to excerpts of the speech released by the campaign.
Trump, whose unpredictable campaign has broken every rule of politics, will portray America as a broken nation that only he can fix.
“I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end,” he will say. “Beginning on January 20th, 2017, safety will be restored.”
Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper why Trump was playing up fears of rising crime even though FBI statistics show crime is in decline.
“People don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods. I’m not sure what statistics you’re talking about,” Manafort said, and then took a swipe at the Bureau over its decision not to seek charges against Clinton over her email server.
“The FBI is certainly suspect these days after what they just did with Hillary Clinton,” he said.
Rallying delegates from the stage, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus also hit out at Clinton.
“She lied, over and over and over, she lied,” Priebus said, accusing the former first lady of “perfecting the art of politics for personal gain.”
“For Hillary Clinton, the Oval Office is just another cash cow,” he said.
The symbolic rite of passage that Trump’s appearance at the GOP convention represents will immediately confer a new level of stature and responsibility on Trump. The speech, expected to be delivered just after 10 p.m. ET, will give him a chance to soothe party divisions sensationally re-opened by his primary rival Ted Cruz’s refusal Wednesday to endorse Trump.
But more significantly, Trump must also make a case directly to millions of Americans watching at home. The speech marks his best chance yet to project himself as a potential commander-in-chief — a higher bar than he has so far had to clear.
His remarks will also be closely watched abroad, where there is significant concern about the prospect of a Trump presidency, exacerbated by a New York Times interview Wednesday in which he cast doubt on NATO security guarantees.
The speech also gives Trump a chance to set the narrative as he heads out of a convention which has often been chaotic, and could end with unanswered questions about party unity and his own capacity to broaden his appeal.
Many of the early speakers sought to give Trump a leg up. Jerry Falwell Jr., described him as a “blue collar billionaire.”
Tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel, meanwhile, made history by becoming the first platform speaker ever to tell the Republican National Convention that he was proud to be gay.
“Of course, every American has a unique identity,” Thiel said. “I am proud to be gay, I am proud to be a Republican, but most of all I am proud to be an American.”
The billionaire will be introduced by his daughter, Ivanka, whose own speech is anticipated to be a high point of the night and will underscore the dominant role played by his children in reshaping their brash father’s image all week in Cleveland.
Trump’s son, Eric, told CNN’s Sara Murray that Ivanka will provide a different perspective than he and his brother, Donald Jr., brought earlier in the week and will highlight a doting father-daughter relationship.
“She does the princess thing very well and she’s immensely close with my father,” he said.
The GOP nominee’s family, including son-in-law Jared Kushner, had a heavy hand in drafting the speech, and Trump held his first run-through on Sunday.
Sources told CNN that Trump will use a teleprompter, though it is possible the famously unscripted Trump could veer off into characteristic digressions that have been so important to framing his political image.
Sources also said that Trump will not pivot away from the controversial themes that worry the GOP establishment but have powered his grass-roots insurgency.
But Trump is expected to make those points in a more linear and organized way than the staccato stream-of-consciousness he uses on the campaign trail.
He is expected to renew his vow to build a wall on the southern border, to crack down on illegal immigration and to renegotiate or throw out trade deals with foreign nations like China that he says have fleeced U.S. workers. And Trump is likely to launch a new assault on Clinton, who he brands “Crooked Hillary” and who is reviled by Republicans at the convention. They have repeatedly chanted “Lock Her Up! Lock Her Up!” during speeches throughout the week.