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Our Political Pros See Trump's Speech in Shades of Red and Blue

Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the executive editor of Bloomberg News, before which he was a reporter, bureau chief and executive Washington editor at the Wall Street Journal.
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Two of America's smartest political strategists are analyzing the Republican National Convention this week for Bloomberg View, giving their perspectives on how the proceedings come across to millions of viewers and voters. They are Fred Davis, who has run scores of Republican campaigns and was the top adviser to the Super PAC supporting Ohio Governor John Kasich's presidential quest this year; and John Sasso, a longtime Democratic adviser who was the leading strategist for the presidential campaigns of Michael Dukakis in 1988 and John Kerry in 2004. Davis is watching from Los Angeles, Sasso from Massachusetts.

It’s no secret that Democrats and Republicans often see the same events in different ways. That describes the contrasting reactions from our political analysts to Donald Trump's dark-hued speech Thursday night accepting the Republican nomination for president.

John Sasso, the Democrat, thought it bombed, while Republican Fred Davis said the nominee did what he had to do.

"It was an angry speech, a series of crazy charges and empty promises," Sasso said. "He didn't show any humility or graciousness."

Davis didn't give it an A-plus, but thought it would be politically effective. He said Trump "gave the people he needed to reach what they needed” and “pulled off what he needed to do."

Davis, who loves a speech with a good narrative, said he wished there had been a few more whispers or lower-key moments and less shouting; he also thought the 73-minute address stressing public-safety threats and national decline was too long.

Still he identified high points, as when Trump declared, “I am your voice." Davis said Trump "opened the door" to potential new voters with some empathetic comments about gays and lesbians and members of minority groups.

Sasso disagreed. "He may have helped himself slightly with core Republican voters,” the Democrat said. “But he didn't offer anything to independents or undecided voters. He sought to scare people and I don't think that will work."

The convention itself was more upbeat Thursday night than on the first three evenings, with delegates hoping that miscues like a non-endorsement speech from Senator Ted Cruz might be minimized. Yet divisions among Republicans remained deep and visible; in many delegations, the few major office-holders who had been in attendance had mostly departed.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley left Cleveland before the final evening. A member of the Illinois delegation said all its elected officials were gone. The New Hampshire delegation has been led at every recent convention by a John Sununu (the father an ex-governor, the son a former senator), but both were back home as was the current Republican senator, Kelly Ayotte.

One note of hope expressed by more than a few delegates was Trump's choice of Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate. But in his lengthy speech last night, Trump barely mentioned Pence.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Albert R. Hunt at ahunt1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Jonathan Landman at jlandman4@bloomberg.net