The Republican convention this past week has seemed to me generally quite effective. Noteworthy, at least as I heard it, were at least two points where Trump has departed from recent Republican presidents. Both points were underscored in the closing night in speeches by both Ivanka Trump and the president himself. Donald Trump said he would "keep America out of endless and costly foreign wars," and he boasted, "last month I took on Big Pharma." These are phrases—"endless and costly foreign wars," "Big Pharma"—that might easily come from Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, or Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent socialist who sought the Democratic presidential nomination.
Another point my ears perked up was when Trump said, "we will impose tariffs on any company that leaves America to produce jobs overseas." This, too, is reminiscent of a Warren-Sanders style Reichsfluchtsteuer. It'd be better if Trump tried to create tax structures and other conditions, like rule of law, that attract companies here from other places, rather than trying to trap companies here against their will by imposing punitive taxes on those who leave.
Whether these passages were effective or not is hard to say. If Trump loses, critics may blame these positions for his defeat. If he wins, the same critics may say he won in spite of these positions rather than because of them. It is hard to disentangle electoral results and individual policy positions. And it's also worth keeping in mind the distinction between what Trump or any politician says and what he does, though it is true that Trump has, as he put it, "kept America out of new wars."
In other respects, the Trump speech crisply followed the course I outlined in my column last month on the enemies emerging in the campaign—the coronavirus; China; the rioters, looters and flagburners in the streets ("or as the Democrats will call them, peaceful protesters," Trump said, displaying the dry wit for which the press rarely credits him.)
Biden offered a response in a statement yesterday saying, "The violence we're witnessing is happening under Donald Trump. Not me. ...when Donald Trump says tonight you won't be safe in Joe Biden's America, look around and ask yourself: How safe do you feel in Donald Trump's America?"
I think Trump has a better chance of winning a second term now than he did before both conventions, but there is still time for trends to shift either for him or against him between now and Election Day.