CLEVELAND —Republican delegates have begun casting their votes for Donald Trump, in a state-by-state and territory-by-territory roll call that is expected to end with Trump’s formal nomination for president.
Anti-Trump delegates have said they plan to try to hold up Trump’s nomination by walking out, and trying to deny Trump a sufficient number of votes. But that effort – like the “Never Trump” movement’s other last-ditch efforts this week – is expected to fail.
Trump’s nomination was seconded by two of the elected officials who were first to endorse the mogul’s unlikely candidacy. Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), the first House member to endorse Trump, called him “not merely a candidate. Donald Trump is a movement.”
Then South Carolina Lt. Gov. Henry McMasters (R) gave a speech that veered from unbridled happiness about Trump to deep pessimism about the state of the country Trump wants to lead.
“Weakness, decline, and ultimately, chaos and oblivion. We feel an eerie unease,” McMaster said, describing the state of the nation under President Obama. “But, ladies and gentlemen, that is about to change.”
Later in the evening, delegates are also expected to nominate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as Trump’s running mate. There will also be speeches by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and two of Trump’s children.
The speakers will also include the president of a waterproofing company in the Bronx, Andy Wist. Wist, who has little political experience, will speak on an evening dedicated to economic themes, under the title, “Make America Work Again.”
All of those speakers will hope to reset and refocus the GOP convention after a lackluster first night on Monday. On that night, Trump counterprogrammed his own convention, by callling in to Fox News and preempting an emotional speech by a woman whose son was killed in the 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. A speech by rising GOP star Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa) was pushed too late for prime-time TV, and given to a largely empty arena.
And a speech by Trump’s wife Melania turned out to contain passages very similar to passages in the 2008 convention speech by Michelle Obama.
Charges that Melania Trump had plagiarized cast a shadow over Trump and his campaign on the second day of the convention here in Cleveland, where Republicans are making the case to a skeptical country that the celebrity billionaire —the most unconventional and impulsive major-party standard-bearer in modern history — could be a credible and steadfast leader at a time of terrorist threats abroad and senseless tragedies at home.
Trump’s campaign and allies rushed to defend Melania Trump on Tuesday morning, even as other Republicans worried that the fresh controversy would eclipse Tuesday’s emphasis at the convention on Trump’s economic message.
Melania Trump had previously indicated that she wrote the speech herself.
On Tuesday morning, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort denied that there had been any plagiarism, despite clear similarities between the two speeches. Some parts of the speeches appeared to be the same, word for word. He made the rounds of an empty arena Tuesday morning, going between television sets on the convention floor as he made his case, looking tired and insisting that the plagiarism was being overstated and overplayed.
“There’s no cribbing of Michelle Obama’s speech. These were common words and values that she cares about, her family, things like that,” Manafort said on CNN’s “New Day” Tuesday morning. “She was speaking in front of 35 million people last night, she knew that, to think that she would be cribbing Michelle Obama’s words is crazy.”
He added that he does not believe “Trump feels that there’s anything to fire someone about” during an interview on CBS.
Elsewhere within the Republican establishment, however, reaction was starkly different.
“Talking to operatives here, the mood is something between grim resignation and the Donner Party,” said veteran GOP consultant Mike Murphy on Tuesday morning.
Roger Stone, a Trump friend, called the speech very “effective” and “good.” He said he didn’t know who wrote the speech or was responsible for what he called the “alleged plagiarism.”
Stone said he had not spoken to Trump or Manafort yet Tuesday, but intended to speak with the latter sometime later in the day.
Asked whether someone should be fired or reprimanded for the speech, Stone said: “Not for me to say other than this is really bad staff work.”
Stone added that the campaign is still going through growing pains, an indirect jab at Lewandowski.
“Sadly, the campaign lost several months under the wrong leadership, and they are still in the recruitment phase,” said Stone. “They’re not even at full strength and they need to be.”
Still other were optimistic that the controversy would blow over soon.
Former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour called the controversy a “nothingburger” during an interview with The Washington Post. The former Republican National Committee chairman defended Melania Trump and said that the speech appeared heartfelt. “If I took the 10 most significant things that happened last night, I would not include this in the list,” he said.
Former Texas governor Rick Perry said during a brief interview in Cleveland that he believes the controversy is being overblown and will soon pass.
“I think that in a 24/7 news cycle, you all have to have something to talk about,” Perry said when asked about the controversy. “My bet is . . . this will be gone probably by mid-afternoon. There will be something said on the stage that is probably more interesting for you.”
Philip Rucker, Ed O’Keefe and Isaac Stanley-Becker contributed to this report.