Donald Trump, the former star of The Apprentice, became the official Republican presidential candidate on Tuesday evening after winning a majority of the votes from delegates at the party’s convention in Cleveland.
Mr Trump secured the 1,237 votes he needed when his son, Donald Jr, announced the support of his home state of New York, “Congratulations Dad, we love you.” The final tally was 1,725 votes.
Mr Trump will not formally accept the nomination until his primetime speech on Thursday, but the result marks the official end of the Republican primary, one of the most acrimonious in recent history. Mr Trump ousted 16 rivals as his populist campaign caught fire among the Republican base, and managed to avoid a contested convention after hammering his final rivals, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, in the last of the primary races.
Leading up to the result, the head of each state delegation announced their votes, saying in many cases that they were proud to vote for “the next president of the United States of America, Donald J Trump”. As the vote progressed, Mr Trump tweeted, “The ROLL CALL is beginning at the Republican National Convention. Very exciting!”
Adding to the theatre, the New Hampshire delegation was led by Corey Lewandowski, the former Trump campaign manager who was ousted after Mr Trump’s children pushed to replace him with Paul Manafort. “Two votes for Marco Rubio, three votes for Jeb Bush, three votes for Ted Cruz, four votes for Kasich, and 11 votes for my friend and the next president of the United States, Donald J Trump,” said Mr Lewandowski.
Tensions had escalated at the convention earlier on Tuesday, as protesters clashed on Cleveland’s Public Square and some delegates made a fresh push to block Mr Trump from securing the party’s nomination.
On the floor of the Quicken Loans Arena, the mood has been split between diehard Trump supporters basking in the showbiz-driven proceedings and other longtime party members who appear to be tolerating Mr Trump’s candidacy only against the competing prospect of having Hillary Clinton in the White House.
Some of the most fervent backlash against Mr Trump has come from social conservatives and evangelical Republicans who say they still struggle to accept that idea that Mr Trump is a true conservative.
On Tuesday afternoon, some delegates pushed for the second roll-call vote in two days to force the Republican National Committee to change its nomination rules in a last-ditch effort to stop Mr Trump.
On the convention floor, Theresa Hubbard, a military reservist from Virginia, said she was still struggling to get herself “Trumped up”, while still nursing doubts over whether Mr Trump was a “real conservative”.
“It’s the lack of details in his policies that are worrying. He says some things but he doesn’t believe them,” said Tanner Milner, a Louisiana delegate.
While Mr Trump and the RNC appeared to be making more of an effort to work together in the weeks before the convention, some party members privately continued to take shots at the candidate and his campaign.
One Republican Party staffer told the FT he had been embarrassed by Melania Trump’s speech on Monday evening, even before Mrs Trump was accused of plagiarising an earlier convention speech by Michelle Obama.
“I thought Melania was like listening to an endorsement speech for third grade class president, by a fellow third-grader,” the staffer said.
He added that he had been troubled by the “crass” tone of some of the speeches blaming Mrs Clinton for the attack on Benghazi and other blunders but noted it would probably boost the party’s chances in November.
“The stories of mothers who lost sons to illegal immigrants and in Benghazi was heartbreaking. Personally blaming Hillary was crass at times, yet will be undoubtedly effective in the fall.”
On the streets of downtown Cleveland, vendors having been selling as much anti-Clinton paraphernalia as pro-Trump trucker hats and T-shirts.
Members of Black Lives Matters and other activist groups have staged multiple protests and rallies just outside the convention building. On Tuesday afternoon, several protest groups, from anarchists to members of the Westboro Baptist Church, clashed on Cleveland’s Public Square, forcing scores of police officers to shut the square down.
It was a rare moment of unrest, however. While clashes between anti-Trump protesters and the police have been frequent on the campaign trail, so far Cleveland has been surprisingly quiet, most likely due to the high security and the metal and steel barriers around the convention’s secure zone.
The city is also awash with police. $ 50 million of federal money has been spent on security and 5,500 police have been assigned to convention week — from as far afield as Kansas, Indiana and California.
At the Tuesday scuffle on Public Square, police vastly outnumbered protesters, in a stark contrast to the 2004 Republican Convention in New York where one antiwar protest drew over 100,000 people.
Yet inside the convention hall, there were still signs that the Republican Party was still struggling to unify. Clint Williams, a delegate from California, said he missed the conventions of Ronald Reagan, a leader he said had actually been able to unite his party.
“It was euphoria. Reagan was like God. There wasn’t any fighting. It was a love fest,” he said. “I’m not sure we’ll have another Reagan for a long time,” he added.
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