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In His Acceptance Speech, Trump Promises To Restore Safety

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep in Cleveland.

(SOUNDBITE OF REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION)

DONALD TRUMP: USA, USA, USA, USA.

INSKEEP: Republicans welcomed their presidential nominee last night, and he chanted along with them. And on this morning, we're going to get a taste of what Donald Trump said in his nomination acceptance speech. We're going to listen to some key passages with NPR political reporter Scott Detrow, who's in our studio. Scott, good morning once again.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: We're also joined by Republican analyst John Feehery, who's here in Cleveland. Mr. Feehery, welcome to you.

JOHN FEEHERY: Good morning.

INSKEEP: So Trump started out fairly restrained, I would say, but the longer he spoke, the more he raised his voice, getting into the energy of the moment. Let's listen to a good part of this.

(SOUNDBITE OF REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION)

TRUMP: I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people who cannot defend themselves.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: I have seen firsthand how the system is rigged against our citizens just like it was rigged against Bernie Sanders. He never had a chance, never had a chance. But his supporters will join our movement because we will fix his biggest single issue - trade deals that stripped our country of its jobs and stripped us of our wealth as a country.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Millions of Democrats will join our movement because we are going to fix the system so it works fairly and justly for each and every American.

INSKEEP: We're getting a taste of his speech from last night - so much to dig into there. John Feehery, let's start with you. What did you hear there?

FEEHERY: Well, I heard a - I might disagree with the policies, but from a political perspective, I thought it was brilliant. You know, he got this - the politics of resentment, the idea that a lot of voters feel that they're not being well taken care of by our system of government. And it really did play the politics of resentment very well.

INSKEEP: What - Scott Detrow.

DETROW: You know, I think one thing that struck me was how disciplined Donald Trump was. Usually when he's scripted doing these policy speeches, he almost sounds bored by it. Last night, he was fiery, at many times angry, but he did not veer off the script. He did an ad lib to the point where he's done so often that's gotten him in trouble.

INSKEEP: There were just a phrase or two here and there that seemed like an ad lib. He didn't kind of do the stream of consciousness that he sometimes does. Were either of you surprised by the darkness of this speech, the dark tones of this speech warning - I mean, people have used phrases like apocalyptic tones as he talks about the situation in the world, which is understandable, but also the situation at home as being extremely dire.

FEEHERY: Well, it certainly wasn't an optimistic speech, except for the fact that he felt he could fix things, which I think a lot of the - especially in the room, people felt - feel that the country's going down the wrong path. And I thought, you know, it was a very stark speech. And, you know, you take it in as part of - the Ivanka speeches was much more optimistic I thought.

INSKEEP: Yeah, his daughter who introduced him, sure.

FEEHERY: Right, you had those two - the two pieces, you know. You really do need to take these as two pieces of the same pie.

INSKEEP: Was this rhetorically a little different than past Republican leaders? Republican leaders in the past might say I believe the American people can fix whatever is wrong with America if we just free them up. Trump is saying I alone can fix it. That's actually a quote we just heard.

DETROW: Yeah. And I think another thing that was different than previous Republican nominees is that a big thing about Republican leaders is that there's always an optimism America, faith in the American people, saying Democrats are down in America, but America is great. We can fix America.

This was a very dark speech talking about - talking about terror threats, talking about attacks like Orlando but also talking about everyday crime and basically saying this country is falling apart. A Donald Trump administration would fix it.

INSKEEP: John Feehery.

FEEHERY: Yeah. I think that's true. I do think that usually if you think of the sunny optimism of Ronald Reagan - although, you know, Reagan did say that the problem here was the government. And he could, you know, we all needed to fix the government so we can free the American people. I think George W. Bush, the, you know, compassionate conservative, was much more optimistic, the idea the government could help people. This was very much the government is out to really screw you and I'm the only one who can stop it. And, you know, so it was in many ways a Trumpian type of promise. You know, he alone is the man who can take care of this.

INSKEEP: Well, now, Trump's speech also went after Hillary Clinton, as the speakers here in Cleveland have done all week. Let's listen to some of that.

(SOUNDBITE OF REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION)

TRUMP: In 2009 - pre-Hillary - ISIS was not even on the map. Libya was stable. Egypt was peaceful. Iraq was seeing and really a big, big reduction in violence. Iran was being choked by sanctions. Syria was somewhat under control. After four years of Hillary Clinton, what do we have? ISIS has spread across the region and the entire world. Libya is in ruins and our ambassador and his staff were left helpless to die at the hands of savage killers.

INSKEEP: John Feehery, he's naming a lot of things that actually happened there, but does this sell to a broad national audience beyond core Republicans that Hillary Clinton is the one responsible for ISIS and the Arab Spring and so much else in the world?

FEEHERY: Well, what Trump is doing is going after her core argument that she has the experience to really lead the country. He's saying that that experience was actually detrimental to the future of the country and don't put her in charge of the whole thing 'cause it'll get a lot worse. So I thought, you know...

INSKEEP: Going after her biggest strength there I guess.

FEEHERY: Right, exactly, her biggest strength he's going after, and I think it's pretty smart politics, frankly.

INSKEEP: OK. That's John Feehery. Thanks very much to you, appreciate it. Scott Detrow.

DETROW: You know, this was a long speech, the longest by a nominee in decades. NPR Politics team fact-checked and dug in. You can get that at nprpolitics.org.

INSKEEP: OK. Thanks to you both, Scott Detrow and John Feehery.

DETROW: Thank you.

FEEHERY: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Now, let's get a taste of some of the conversations around this convention. There are some things we've heard among younger people here in Cleveland, millennial voters and a special group of millennials, those committed enough to the Republican Party to attend this convention, some of whom who have been talking with NPR's Asma Khalid and saying something surprising. Asma, what is it?

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Well, Steve, I have been talking to a number of millennials, and the common thread that I have heard from folks is that they have reservations about the direction of the Republican Party and about Donald Trump as their party's standard-bearer. I went to this town hall earlier in the week, and there were about a hundred young Republican voters there from all across the country. And the moderator wanted to get a pulse on how they're feeling about Donald Trump. So he just asked, you know, how many of you all are big believers in Donald Trump and you've been with him since day one? Out of about a hundred people, one tentative hand sort of went up and then she put her hand back down.

INSKEEP: Wow. You would certainly have something different if it was an older group of Republican voters.

KHALID: It is. I mean, I should say most of these folks then were subsequently asked about voting for Donald Trump, and they did acknowledge that they would vote for him. But they're not necessarily happy with that choice.

INSKEEP: What is bothering the millennial voters you spoke with here at this convention?

KHALID: Well, you know, it's hard to say. I think there's a variety of things, but I met one young woman from North Carolina. Her name is Alicia Hilsinger (ph). And she explained it this way.

ALICIA HILSINGER: I feel like I swing very conservatively, but I feel like to win the millennial vote in general that we need to hear that he's going to be more tolerant. I feel like millennials grew up with - in a totally different culture, a totally different atmosphere than what the older generation of the conservative party has grown up in. And so I feel like I need to hear some toleration. Not all of us want to see thousands of immigrants get sent back and not all of us want to see a huge wall built.

KHALID: Though, you know, I mean, Steve, you heard her. She's 18. She's growing up in North Carolina. And she told me that some of her dear friends are immigrants. I mean, this is a generation that does not see things in black and white. And where a harsh immigration rhetoric might be a selling point to some older Republican voters, for some of these younger voters - I mean, even young white voters - it's a turn off. They are about 40 percent as a generation - millennials, people of color. So they have gone to school. They have friends who are of different races.

INSKEEP: OK, but that young woman, is she going to vote for Hillary Clinton?

KHALID: No. I mean, Steve, she did tell me that she is going to vote for Donald Trump. She believes in party unity. But there were some other folks who told me that they don't think they can vote for him. You know, polling shows a majority of young Republicans actually have an unfavorable opinion of Donald Trump. I also met Isabel Reed (ph) this week and she told me she has a lot more hesitation with Donald Trump.

ISABEL REED: I mean, it's a bummer because this election is such an excellent opportunity for the Republicans to win back the White House. But he's just - I mean, he's made a lot of comments, I mean, disparaging women and other groups of members of society that more morally it would be hard stand behind him in November.

KHALID: And, Steve, she's one of a handful of young voters that I met actually in different settings around town this week who told me without any prompting that they could, you know, potentially maybe consider Hillary Clinton.

REED: I'm undecided at this point. I'm an American first and a Republican second, so it will be interesting to see who Hillary picks as a running mate. And that'll have an impact on my decision. But at this point, I couldn't tell you who I'm voting for.

INSKEEP: So what are the long-term consequences here for the Republican Party?

KHALID: So, Steve, millennials are a huge generation. They are already rivaling baby boomers in size, and most of them do lean Democrat. But even here, you know, at this convention among a group of conservative Republicans, there's a sadness about where Trump is leading the party.

INSKEEP: NPR's Asma Khalid is here in Cleveland. Thanks very much.

KHALID: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.