CLEVELAND (AP) — The glitz. The glam. The speeches, protests and parties. The flamboyant presidential candidate who’s giving his party more than a touch of heartburn.
The 2016 Republican National Convention, kicking off Monday, will be like no other. Just ask Donald Trump, who’s promised a “monumentally magnificent” display of stagecraft at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
Whether this year’s confab meets that benchmark remains to be seen. With many Republicans deeply reluctant to nominate the billionaire reality TV star, GOP organizers have struggled to attract the star power that typically graces the stage, and there were more questions than answers about what, exactly, will take place once the convention is gaveled in.
Still, the quadrennial gathering boils down to a few key pieces of business the Republican Party must carry out before it can turn its focus fully to winning the White House in November. What to know about the week:
Both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party use their national conventions to formally nominate candidates for president and vice president. The top figures in the party gather to showcase their nominees, and the prime-time speeches given by the candidates and other prominent politicians garner some of the largest television audiences of the campaign. That makes the convention a critical opportunity for the party to introduce its candidates to the country.
At the convention, the Republican Party will also adopt its official party platform, a formal document that lays out the party’s policy principles but has no binding effect on how its politicians ultimately govern.
The Quicken Loans Arena, also known as “The Q,” is hosting the convention. The home of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, the arena has been transformed with stages, platforms, cameras and lights. The site was chosen in mid-2014 after a vote by the RNC’s 168 members.
Some 50,000 GOP delegates, alternates, lawmakers and guests are converging on downtown Cleveland, along with close to 15,000 journalists from around the world.
Of the 2,472 delegates planning to attend, many were selected at state and congressional district conventions. Others were on slates put together by the presidential campaigns. They represent the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and U.S. territories. Members of the RNC are automatic delegates.
WHO’S NOT GOING
Some prominent establishment Republicans, including many up for re-election this year. Concerned that being associated with Trump may hurt their own standing with voters, those Republicans are choosing to stay away.
GOP Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Mark Kirk of Illinois and John McCain of Arizona — all on November’s ballot —bowed out. So are Mitt Romney, the party’s most recent presidential nominee, and the party’s two most recent presidents, George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who competed with Trump in the primary, is holding numerous GOP-themed events in the Cleveland area, but is conspicuously avoiding the convention itself.
It’s a work in progress.
Unlike in previous years, this year officials disclosed almost nothing about what would happen at the convention until the last minute. A broad overview of speakers released late Sunday was short on details about what would happen when.
GOP officials said that Monday’s theme would be “Make America Safe Again,” with speeches by former New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa. Trump will make his first appearance at the convention when he introduces his wife, Melania, for her speech in the late evening.
The focus shifts Tuesday to jobs. Trump children Tiffany and Donald Jr. plan to speak, as does House Speaker Paul Ryan and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who Trump passed over to be his running mate. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Trump’s vice presidential pick, will headline the Wednesday session that focuses on how “Make America First Again.”
Daughter Ivanka Trump will introduce her father for the must-see speech on Thursday, the convention’s final day.
Republicans have struggled to put together an impressive roster of nonpoliticians. Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, who leads the congregation that Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, attends, was scheduled to appear but backed out. Former football star Tim Tebow, whom the Trump campaign had touted as an all-star get, later insisted he had no plans to attend.
In their stead, Republicans will have a lineup that so far includes actor and former underwear model Antonio Sabato Jr. and pro golfer Natalie Gulbis.
Democrats, in contrast, have nabbed entertainers like Snoop Dogg, Lady Gaga, Lenny Kravitz and Cyndi Lauper for their convention the following week in Philadelphia.
Finalizing the rules for the convention is critical this year, because of the long-simmering threat by anti-Trump delegates to try to oust him at the convention. Delegates are expected to approve the convention’s rules when the gathering begins Monday.
Though Trump won more delegates in the primaries than he needs, his foes sought to use a rules change to “unbind” delegates so they could cast a vote of “conscience” and back someone other than Trump despite the verdict of voters in their states.
Those hopes were quashed in a rules committee meeting last week, in which that proposal was resoundingly defeated. Still, social conservatives and others were spending the weekend strategizing. They hope to force procedural votes in long-shot bids to potentially derail Trump’s nomination.
The dissidents are outnumbered and are up against party leaders who control the gavel and are intent on a smoothly run event. Even so, Trump’s foes could prove noisy and disruptive.
THE ROLL CALL
The high point of the week’s pageantry will come in the formal roll-call vote to nominate Trump, likely Tuesday or Wednesday, in which each state will have its turn to announce how its delegates are voting.
Trump arrives with 1,543 delegates, according to the Associated Press count. That number includes 1,448 delegates required under party rules to vote for Trump on the first ballot, and 95 unbound delegates who have publicly endorsed Trump.
It takes 1,237 delegates to win the Republican nomination.
Cleveland authorities have prepared for potentially thousands of protesters, a common occurrence at political conventions but especially likely this year. A protest area has been established just outside the convention site.
Security concerns are particularly high this year due to recent mass casualty events, racial tensions and civilian-police violence across the United States, including the fatal shooting of three police officers on Sunday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Officials have locked down a perimeter around the arena and set up barricades, and security was stepped up further after the truck attack Thursday in Nice, France.
The convention will end, as usual, with a massive balloon drop over the heads of delegates on the floor, while cameras roll and music blares. In the arena, thousands of red, white and blue balloons have been pre-positioned on the ceiling.
The festivities continue outside the arena, where state GOP parties, political groups and media organizations have organized hundreds of parties, receptions and seminars.
Associated Press writers Alan Fram and Stephen Ohlemacher contributed to this report.
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