With just a handful of days to go until the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, the list of speakers was finally released this week.
And it’s not quite as impressive as presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump promised it would be.
“Dear God,” GOP strategist and commentator Evan Siegfried said of his reaction to the list when it was first revealed. “Who is there to appeal to people that aren’t already voting for Trump?”
Many of the party’s emerging and diverse voices — whether it’d be South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Reps. Mia Love and Jason Chaffetz of Utah, Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, or Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, among others — aren’t speaking at next week’s spectacle.
That’s highly unusual.
“It’s kind of worrisome,” Siegfried said. “It felt like the jayvee team.”
Trump, however, didn’t have much of a choice in the matter after many said they’d pass on attending his coronation, GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak told Business Insider.
It isn’t as if the list is completely lacking any emerging leaders, though. Former 2016 presidential rivals, such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — though he hasn’t endorsed Trump — and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will deliver speeches. So will House Speaker Paul Ryan and Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida will be delivering a video address.
And there’s one more young star who could leave Cleveland in much better positioning for a big future than when he entered — Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, the youngest member of the Senate.
“It’s a huge opportunity for him,” Mackowiak said. “It’s probably the largest number of people who will have ever seen him at any one time. Several million people will probably be watching whatever night he’s speaking. So, that’s a huge opportunity for him to introduce himself nationally, help him begin to build a national platform, begin to establish national credibility on national security and foreign policy issues which I’m sure he’ll focus on.”
“So yeah, it’s a good opportunity for him,” he continued. “The question is can he be helpful to the Trump campaign while also maintaining his own sort of political independence ideologically? That will be a needle that he’ll have to thread.”
Cotton and Cruz, Siegfried said, are there for one reason — setting the stage for their 2020 presidential bids.
In terms of the overall list, Mackowiak actually said it looked a bit better than he expected. He was thinking there was a chance only “one or two” elected Republicans spoke while the remainder was Trump’s family, friends, and celebrities. Siegfried considered it on par, with the “one positive” being the first openly gay Republican speaker — tech billionaire Peter Thiel — to address the convention in 16 years.
With a dearth of emerging GOP talent speaking at the event, the two young senators — Cotton and Cruz — are two of the biggest speeches to watch, Mackowiak said.
Another speech to watch, he said: Ivanka Trump
“Will be interesting to see whether she gives a soft, warm personal speech about her father or is she able to go kind of beyond that and get into political and ideological themes,” Mackowiak explained.
Of course, no one will be able to overshadow the most important speech of all — Trump’s.
“The stakes from Trump Thursday night will be really, really high,” Mackowiak said. “It will be the most people that have ever watched him on television. There will be a lot of pressure on him to maintain his brand to his fans but also to really demonstrate that he’s a credible candidate for president.
“I think there will be some big moments at the convention,” he continued. “No doubt.”
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