CLEVELAND — The first night of the Republican National Convention didn’t go as planned.
Melania Trump, the wife of presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump, has been accused of delivering lines lifted from Michelle Obama in her speech Monday night.
And Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, one of few prominent Republican politicians scheduled to speak that night, didn’t go on until after 11 p.m. She delivered her address to a quickly emptying arena.
At an Iowa delegation lunch on Tuesday, Ernst alluded to the later-than-expected speaking slot. She thanked the Iowa delegation on the convention floor, whose members stood for the duration of Ernst’s speech as dozens of others filed out of the arena.
“It was great to take the stage last night, and as I looked to my left, there was the Iowa sign with the Iowa delegation, every last one of you on your feet the entire speech,” Ernst said. “So I want to thank you for that. It shows a solidarity we have in our Iowa delegation.”
Monday wasn’t a great start for a party already facing questions about its future in America. Republican leaders speaking to the media spent much of the second day of the convention defending Melania Trump against plagiarism accusations, and some politicians wondered why the Trump campaign couldn’t seem to keep its first night of speeches on track.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said he was “disappointed” with Ernst’s speech being pushed past 11 p.m. and said Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, who was on Trump’s running mate short list before his campaign tapped Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, shouldn’t have spoken for as long as he did. Flynn took the stage after Melania Trump finished.
“I thought the general that was on before her went way too long,” Branstad told Business Insider at the Iowa delegation lunch. “I was disappointed that she wasn’t there in primetime as it was originally intended. But, she still gave a great speech and we’re all very proud of Joni and I thought she did a great job.”
He continued: “Our whole delegation stood up through the whole speech and we just wish there would have been more people there and it would have been in primetime.”
Iowa Rep. Steve Smith echoed this sentiment.
“Missing the prime time slot, that was a shame,” Smith told Business Insider. “I think they should have shut the place down at 11 o’clock when prime time was over and rescheduled Joni to speak [Wednesday] to give her a better slot.”
He continued: “And this convention could be run more tightly. If you’re running an event like this, we do something like this, we do it to the minute. And we’ve got items in our schedule that we can shorten up in order to catch up if we get behind. That’s just what needed to happen.”
Another Republican politician, Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke, also took the stage after 11 p.m. When asked Tuesday morning what he thought of how the speeches went on Monday, he praised Melania Trump’s address and dismissed the accusations of plagiarism.
“Melania I thought was brilliant and I’m aghast at the criticism because I think First Lady speeches are pretty much the same,” Zinke told Business Insider, noting he thought Melania’s praise of her husband was “passionate” and “realistic.”
While more traditional convention speakers like Ernst and Zinke had to go on late after most convention attendees started leaving the arena, other non-conventional guests spoke earlier in the evening to a larger audience.
Actors Scott Baio and Antonio Sabato Jr. appeared on stage, as did Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy, a former star of MTV’s “The Real World” reality TV show.
Here’s how Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena looked earlier in the evening versus when Ernst was speaking:
Still, Ernst and Zinke were far from the only traditional politicians to speak Monday night, during the “Make America Safe Again” lineup.
Sen. Tom Cotton, another rising star in the GOP, spoke toward the middle of the program. Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Sen. Jeff Sessions also spoke earlier in the evening.
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