Donald Trump’s wife Melania, in her elegant white dress and articulate speech, commanded a great media presence Monday night at the Republican National Convention. Today, the scandal surrounding her plagiarism of Michelle Obama’s 2008 convention speech is consuming the airtime.
Melania Trump addressed the delegates after a long line of prime-time speakers including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Sheriff David Clarke and Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, but she wasn’t saved for last.
Because many of the speeches ran long, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, a female National Guard veteran and up-and-coming star in the Republican Party whose address many hoped would provide a relatable perspective, was pushed past 11 p.m. Eastern Time, booting her off prime-time news broadcasting.
Worse, Ernst spoke to a nearly-empty arena, with many attendees having left the convention floor after Trump’s speech concluded.
Trump gives GOP rising star Joni Ernst the empty arena slot on convention opening night pic.twitter.com/1zf4AE8J3f— Alan Rappeport (@arappeport) July 19, 2016
United Press International reported that the overlong slate of speakers exhausted guests:
“By the time Ernst walked on stage, many of the delegates still in attendance in the hall had been in their seats for more than four hours.”
Some news outlets were critical that the slogging remarks of Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and former Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn came before Ernst’s, who as a first-term senator of a swing state had the potential to galvanize voters.
Indeed, an article from GQ (which, to be fair, is titled “From Melania Trump to Joni Ernst, Everybody Who Took the Stage Last Night at the RNC Was a Disaster”) said Cotton gave “a leaden speech with all the charisma of a truancy officer.”
When Ernst was announced as a prime-time speaker in early July, the New York Times explained how important an opportunity she had been given.
“[It] is fitting in many ways, like in possibly helping the candidate neutralize the criticism that he had been insensitive to women. As a Midwesterner who hails from a battleground state, Ms. Ernst offers geographical balance to the brash New York developer.”
A Wall Street Journal reporter talked to an unnamed Iowa delegate that characterized the problems as “effing brutal.”
In her remarks, Ernst criticized President Obama’s weak foreign policy and argued for a stronger national security stance against ISIS.
“Under this current administration’s wayward policies, ISIS continues to spread, while the President fails to put forward a comprehensive strategy to defeat and destroy them,” she said. “Donald Trump will not hesitate to call radical Islamic terrorism by its name, and to destroy those that wish to harm our nation.”
If Ernst had spoken in the 10 p.m. hour, it is likely her rousing address would be making headlines today alongside Trump's plagiarism.
The convention continues Tuesday evening with a similarly chock-full schedule of prime-time political stars.