CLEVELAND — Three long days of attacks on Hillary Clinton, floor fiascos and testaments to Donald Trump have come and gone, and now the big moment of the Republican National Convention has arrived.
Donald Trump’s address Thursday on the convention’s final day will cap a roller-coaster 13 months since the freewheeling business mogul announced his bid for president, took over the Republican Party and became its unlikely nominee. Millions will tune in for a moment few ever expected to see.
Thursday offers Trump a final opportunity to try to cast a presidential image before the attention shifts to the Democratic National Convention next week.
What to watch for on the last day of the convention:
THE YUUUUGE SPEECH
The whole convention has been building up to Trump. Though he’s appeared briefly during the convention already, this will be one of his biggest opportunities of the campaign to speak to supporters, opponents and those still making up their minds.
Nominees typically use convention speeches to describe their journey and lay out their policy proposals. But Trump’s campaign has been anything but ordinary. Will the billionaire stick to the script, or deliver the fireworks he’s promised would erupt at his nominating convention?
Thursday’s theme is “Make America One Again.” The night is supposed to focus on how Trump plans to unite the country and bridge divisions so the U.S. can confront challenges at home and abroad.
That’s a tall order for a candidate who regularly pitted groups against each other and created deep divisions within his own party. Can Trump sell himself as a unifying force, or will he return to the us-versus-them mentality that’s been a hallmark of his campaign?
Trump’s speech will also be the last chance for his once-vocal opponents to make themselves heard. Nothing the anti-Trump forces say or do now can revoke his status as the GOP nominee, but an outburst would be embarrassing for Trump and would highlight lingering divisions within the party.
Those divisions were evident Wednesday when Ted Cruz, Trump’s former rival, was booed when he told supporters to vote their conscience instead of telling them to back Trump.
Will anyone upset what’s supposed to be an uplifting celebration of the GOP nominee?
Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal, will become one of the first openly gay people to speak at a GOP convention when he addresses delegates. He’s expected to say he’s proud to be gay and to criticize the Republican Party for some of its stances, including its support for transgender bathroom laws and anti-gay planks in the party platform.
Watch to see what kind of a reception Thiel gets from delegates, who approved that platform Monday. On the few occasions where speakers have mentioned gay rights so far in the convention, there’s been awkward silence or just a smattering of polite applause.
Daughter Ivanka Trump will have her chance to shine when she introduces her father near the close of the convention. A top executive at the Trump Organization who has her own line of jewelry and clothing, she’s also a trusted adviser to her father’s campaign.
Where the elder Trump is impulsive and unpredictable, Ivanka exudes composure and deliberateness. Expect Ivanka Trump to vouch for her father’s judgment, temperament and readiness to be president, as well as his support and respect for women.
When the gavel bangs to close the convention, the political world’s attention will turn to Philadelphia, where Hillary Clinton will be nominated at next week’s Democratic convention. It will be the Democrats’ turn to make their case for replacing President Barack Obama in the White House — and to dispute everything voters heard at the GOP convention.
Clinton is also expected to announce her pick for running mate in coming days, a moment Clinton hopes will give her campaign a major boost.
Harsh attacks on Clinton have been a running theme in Cleveland. Republicans likely won’t conclude without a fresh round of reminders about why they think she’d be a disaster as president.