The day before the start of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Reince Priebus said Donald Trump has to use the gathering to convince Americans he can be presidential.
“It’s Thursday night,” the Republican National Committee chairman said on “Fox News Sunday,” anticipating the final night of the party's convention, when the presumptive nominee will formally accept the nomination. “It’s Donald Trump giving that speech, the balloons coming down, and people saying, 'I can see him in the White House.'"
Priebus said Trump’s campaign, defined by an off-the-cuff style and the candidate regularly courting negative headlines, has the opportunity that display a gravitas that helped boost Ronald Reagan, known by some voters more as a former B-movie actor than as a former governor of California, over President Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential race.
“It’s what Reagan needed to overcome, and when he did, the bottom fell out of Jimmy Carter," Priebus said. "We're in the same place."
Priebus’ comments came after Trump on Friday made one of the central decisions of the campaign by naming Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate.
The selection of Pence, which Trump reportedly considered trying to reverse before he made it official via Twitter, came with the confusion and intrigue that has defined Trump’s insurgent run. Yet the pick of a Midwestern governor who has committed to positive campaigning is part of a move to consolidate the party. Priebus said Pence would help Trump appeal to social conservatives, many of whom have had doubts about the thrice-married New York real-estate developer.
"He shores up another part of our party," Priebus said of Pence. "Bringing Pence on board ends up shoring up a piece Donald Trump needed to shore up."
At the same time, Priebus said Trump, a billionaire former reality-television star, could bring some glitz to the proceedings in Cleveland. “Donald Trump and his campaign know how to put on a show,” he said. “People are going be pretty impressed.”
The chairman also said that he didn't know of any credible security threats to the convention. Cleveland authorities plan for extensive protests outside the convention, as well as the possibility of raucous proceedings inside.
Priebus spoke before the shooting deaths of three police officers and wounding of at least three others in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Sunday that may prompt additional security measures in Cleveland. Baton Rouge has been on alert since a black man, Alton Sterling, was killed by white police officers this month.
Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, also weighed in on the upcoming events. Trump’s convention speech will be "a more personal message, but it’s going to also carry the indictment against Hillary Clinton and the fact that she is not change and we are,” Manafort said on Fox News.
“It’s going to talk about his life; it’s going to talk about who he is, it’s going to talk about the kinds of things he’s done, not just in business, but the person behind him,” Manafort said. He noted that Trump’s wife, Melania, and four of his children were scheduled to address the convention.
Asked if Trump would stick to a prepared text or ad lib, Manafort hinted the candidate could once again go off-script. “He’s going to be Donald Trump,” he said.