The 'lock her up' convention: Donald Trump's speakers went harder than ever at Hillary Clinton

CLEVELAND — One chant rung louder than the rest at Donald Trump’s recently wrapped-up convention: “Lock her up!”

Throughout the four-day extravaganza in Cleveland, speakers were routinely interrupted with chants of “lock her up” as they stirred some of the strongest anti-Hillary Clinton sentiment of the 2016 election. On Monday, and Tuesday in particular, most speakers devoted their attention on hammering away at Clinton, suggesting she should be in prison rather than focus on a more pro-Trump message.

“Lock her up!” retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn repeated during a lengthy Monday address as the crowd began chanting. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie asked the crowd whether Clinton was “guilty” of a litany of statements he made of the former secretary of state and presumptive Democratic nominee. Many other speakers joined in. The crowd broke out in a “lock her up” chant on each of the four nights.

But was it too much?

“Very good question,” Pennsylvania delegate Mike McMullen told Business Insider. “There’s always a lot of rhetoric to fire up the base and fire up the delegates and fire up everybody here. But stick to the issues.”

“Let’s stop the damn name calling and the insults,” he said, before referencing FBI Director James Comey’s recent decision to suggest she shouldn’t face charges for her use of a private email server during her tenure secretary of state, although he said her handling of sensitive intelligence was “extremely careless.”

“Whether we like it or not as Republicans, the FBI looked into it, investigated it,” he continued. “Right or wrong — I don’t even want to get into that dialogue — It’s a moot point.”

“There’s no appeal process,” he said. “Deal with it, accept it and move on. Let’s talk about jobs, taxes, and the economy. This name calling is great to rally the base, let’s stick to the issues.”

Chris ChristieAlex Wong/Getty ImagesChris Christie at the Republican National Convention.

Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania told Business Insider that he thought the early portion of the week was a bit too focused on driving home a strong anti-Clinton message without pairing it with an equally strong pro-Trump voice to counter it.

But as the week went on, he said it became more about Trump and what he wants to do.

And, he added, ignoring the failures of Clinton would be “foolish.”

“Anybody who is running against her would be foolish to not point out the difference, especially when the most important issues are jobs and national security,” he said. “And Hillary Clinton has been a failure in keeping us safe and what’s happening around the world. It’s impossible not to have that contrast of here is the two options Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and who’s going to make you more safe. You can’t do that without pointing those differences out.”

As Barletta hinted to by mentioning national security, the strongest day for anti-Clinton sentiment was Monday — the day reserved for the theme “making America safe again.”

Mentioning a Trump speech from earlier this year, in which he laid out his message for the future while contrasting with Clinton, Ned Ryun, a conservative grassroots activist and founder of American Majority, told Business Insider that he “wished we hear more of that.”

“It’s something a lot of us would like to see heading out of the convention,” he said prior to Trump’s Thursday night speech. “I always like to be intentional about winning, and I think they could be a bit more intentional to be honest. Let’s not leave it to chance where people say anybody but Hillary. Why don’t we make an argument that he’s got some good ideas and a compelling vision for the future? Cause you put yourself in a much stronger position.”

Asked about the convention focusing too much on a negative anti-Clinton message as opposed to a more positive one outlining reasons to vote for the Manhattan billionaire in November, Rep. Tom MacArthur of New Jersey told Business Insider it was “not what I’ve experienced.”

“You’re describing a negativity that I haven’t experienced,” he said. “I think the atmosphere has been energizing here. And I think our party is coming together.”

On the final night of the convention, Trump was faced with the “lock her up” chant head on — and his decision on how to handle the impassioned crowd was one of the biggest moments of the entire convention.

Trump looked away toward one side of the stage then faced front and center. He shook his hands as if to wave off the chant and left the crowd with a simple message.

“Let’s defeat her in November,” he said.

Matt Shaner, an at-large delegate from Pennsylvania, told Business Insider it was a great answer.

“Yeah, I thought it was good for him to do that, because he has come off kind of hard or harsh,” he said. “He’s had some issues with women voters, so I thought he made a really good move.”

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