It’s the first day of the Republican National Convention, where the GOP is set to formally nominate Donald Trump as the party’s nominee for president.
While the convention won’t be contested, there’s still a lot that can (and probably will) go wrong in Cleveland. Here’s just a few things to watch for as the event kicks off.
The convention committee is begging for money.
Thanks to Donald Trump’s racist, sexist, xenophobic rhetoric, more than two dozen corporate sponsors and wealthy donors have backed out of funding the convention. David Koch, a major backer of the 2012 convention, canceled a $1 million donation to the event, and prominent companies like Apple, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Ford, Pepsi and FedEx have also decided against sponsoring this year’s confab.
The convention hosting committee is so short on funds that they’ve asked billionaire megadonor Sheldon Adelson to bail them out.
“We would greatly appreciate if you would consider a $6,000,000 contribution to the Cleveland 2016 Host Committee to help us cross the finish line,” reads a letter sent to Adelson on July 12 ― just six days before the start of the convention.
A lot of big-name Republicans are sitting this one out.
Political conventions typically draw each party’s biggest stars ― the Democratic convention, for instance, will feature marquee names like President Barack Obama, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). However, many prominent Republicans are staying away from Cleveland this year in an apparent attempt to distance themselves from Trump’s candidacy.
The long list of Republicans staying home includes former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney, 2008 GOP nominee John McCain, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Tons of protests are planned.
Police are preparing for major protests in Cleveland throughout the convention, and some news organizations have trained their employees on what to do in potentially dangerous situations.
Among the groups planning demonstrations are the white nationalist American Freedom Party and the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church. Several anti-Trump groups have also filed permits to protest. As The New York Times reported, Cleveland officials have located extra jail space to accommodate arrested protesters and will keep courts open 20 hours a day throughout the convention.
One group, Bikers for Trump, has vowed to intervene if “paid agitators” attempt to disrupt the proceedings.
“We will be there to make sure that the delegates are allowed to exercise their right to peacefully assemble,” organizer Chris Cox told Breitbart News. “We’ve seen how these paid agitators have thrown eggs and gotten violent at other Trump events around the country and we’re not going to put up with it.”
There are some significant security concerns.
Ohio is an open carry state, meaning gun owners can bring their weapons pretty much wherever they want. Police have said they’ll abide by the state’s open carry laws during the convention.
Guns will be prohibited from the convention hall itself and from a “secure zone” around the convention center. But the rest of Cleveland, including an “event zone” where rallies are planned, is fair game under the state’s open carry laws. That means while protesters can’t bring tennis balls or water guns into the event zone, they can bring their handguns.
The city received a $50 million grant to bolster security during the convention, outfitting police with riot gear, batons, handcuffs and other items. Cleveland officials vow to have the city under control, but others aren’t so confident.
“I am concerned about the prospects of protests getting out of hand,” Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson said. “I am concerned about the possibility of violence.”
Steve Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, is urging gun owners to leave their weapons at home.
“While it’s your legal right to guns in an open-carry type of situation, you have a moral obligation to not make things more difficult,” he said. “I’m here to tell you that this is very irresponsible ideology ― to think that you’re going to bring guns in here and it’s going to make things better. It’s not.”
Many Republicans are still not cool with Trump being the nominee.
While the #NeverTrump movement has faded as more Republicans come to terms with their presumptive nominee, there’s still a faction of the party in favor of dumping Trump.
That faction took a lethal blow Thursday in the convention’s Rules Committee, when an attempt to change the rules to allow delegates to vote their conscience (rather than binding their votes to primary results) failed to get enough votes to pass.
The vote killed what was likely the #NeverTrump movement’s last hope for getting a new candidate. However, the fact that such a coup was even attempted shows there’s still discord among Republicans, something that could hurt the image of party unity a convention is designed to project.
Trump’s VP rollout hasn’t exactly gone smoothly.
Trump announced Friday that he had selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) as his running mate, ending weeks of speculation over who would win the veepstakes. As news of his pick leaked, reporters immediately pointed out the critical issues on which Trump and Pence differ, including Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the war in Iraq.
The rollout itself was also a mess. Multiple news outlets confirmed the pick Thursday, but Trump and some of his top deputies continued to insist he hadn’t yet made up his mind. After a terror attack killed dozens in Nice, France, late Thursday, Trump said he was postponing his VP announcement ― then proceeded to appear on several cable channels to create more suspense about his pick.
He finally announced his choice on Twitter Friday morning, but even that didn’t go well. As Politico’s Shane Goldmacher pointed out, Trump’s digital operation failed to do some very basic promotional work, such as updating Trump’s website with the news, purchasing Google ads or even using Pence’s Twitter handle in the tweet.
Making things more awkward is a CNN report that claims Trump was so insecure in his choice that he asked his staff late Thursday night if he could change his mind.
Pence may also be unsure of his new gig. Republican operative Dan Senor suggested that the governor had previously found Trump unsuitable for office.
Trump’s team promised a convention “unlike any we’ve ever seen.” That’s probably not going to be the case.
Ever the showman, Trump said he wanted a “showbiz” element to this year’s convention, and promised an entertaining affair. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, echoed that claim in an interview with NBC News last month.
“I think it will be a convention unlike any we’ve ever seen,” she said. “It will be substantive. It will be interesting. It will be different. It’s not going to be a ho-hum lineup of, you know, the typical politicians.”
Judging by the roster for this year’s convention, that seems unlikely. The speakers list released by the RNC is fairly standard ― party leaders, Trump’s family members, religious figures and a handful of D-list athletes. And while the candidate wanted to stack the convention with sports stars like Tom Brady and Bobby Knight, that didn’t happen.