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Why the Republican Convention Still Matters

3 minute read

Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee following his victory in the Indiana primary and the subsequent withdrawal from the race by Ted Cruz and John Kasich. That’s right folks: There will not be a contested convention this summer.

But that doesn’t mean the convention in Cleveland will be a meaningless affair. Important decisions will still be made, decisions that could affect both the general election fight against likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and the identity of the Republican Party in the Trump era. From the rules of the convention itself, to the roll-out of Trump’s running mate, to deciding where the party goes from here, there could be plenty of fireworks in July.

“You’ve the remnants of the primary that will carry over into the convention,” former Republican National Committee chairman Mike Duncan said. “Will it get out of control? No it won’t get out of control, but it will highlight and test the rules of the convention process.”

Here are three dynamics to watch.

The GOP will set its agenda for the next four years

The Republican convention serves not only as a venue for formally nominating the party’s presidential candidate, but also for deciding the party’s policy agenda, formally known as the platform. And Trump has locked up the nomination despite—or perhaps because of—his frequent breaks with traditional Republican orthodoxy on many issues. For example, the billionaire recently said he would change the GOP stance on abortion. Fights over the platform could turn heated.

“The platform isn’t something that candidates can always control,” Duncan said. “Generally the disagreements are minor and it’s not something the candidate is going to focus on.”

Republicans will introduce a vice presidential candidate to the country

Republicans will also formally nominate their pick for Vice President in Cleveland. Trump may announce his choice beforehand, but the convention will serve as a high-profile rollout.

Trump may be ready to assuage Republicans still unnerved by his victory, telling MSNBC on Wednesday that he wants a politician as his running mate.

“Somebody who can help me with legislation,” he said. “Somebody who can help me get things passed and somebody who is friends with the senators and the congressmen.”

Trump will have a chance to unite the party

Trump, a political outsider, has made a point of attacking the Republican establishment, calling the GOP primary rules “rigged.” The convention will be his chance to unify the party before entering the general election.

“I think it depends on how he handles this,” Duncan said. “It’s also an opportunity for him to be part of the process and bring people together. It shows a willingness to compromise.”

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