CLEVELAND—I’ve been going to conventions, Republican and Democratic, as a journalist for more than 30 years. One of the cheeriest and most delightful moments at any convention is the roll call of the states, in which high-spirited delegates from each state praise their teams, their leading industrial product, and their political histories before declaring their support for “the next president of the United States.” I’ve been there for winners and losers—for Mondale in ’84, for Dole in ’96, for Kerry in ’04. I was on the convention floor for tonight’s roll call. And I have to report I have never seen nor experienced a more subdued, less enthusiastic nominating moment than the one just now for Donald Trump.

When the crowd cheered, it cheered listlessly. There was little buzz and no energy in a crowded atmosphere that usually crackles with hope and expectation. In part, that was due to the haphazard way in which the roll was called, and the delegate numbers were tallied. A well-run convention has all this planned out meticulously beforehand and knows the final count to the number as it goes. That did not appear to be the case, as the math was performed by hand by two officials at a desk on stage, one of them in a large cowboy hat. There were enervating time gaps between the delegate announcements, and a sense that all was not going quite as it should.

And when Trump’s son, Donald Jr., announced the delegate allocation from New York State, putting his father over the top, there was no planned or spontaneous demonstration—merely a strange baseball game-like visual on the Jumbotron on stage that read “Over The Top.”

And then, when the roll call was over, Speaker Paul Ryan came to the stage and asked if there were any states that wished to change their votes. At which point a delegate from Alaska announced his state’s delegate count (favoring Ted Cruz, who won the state) had been recorded incorrectly—and deliberately so. As I write, action has been suspended for ten minutes as convention officials weirdly went through an unnecessary process to ensure all of Alaska’s delegates were assigned to Trump.

So here’s what we have: An unenthusiastic convention floor, a Trump apparatus that doesn’t make sure the nominee’s wife is speaking new words, and a convention management system that didn’t get the most elementary process wired.

This matters because the delegates on the floor of the convention are the worker bees of the party—the people who work their hearts out to raise money and get others to volunteer and help them corral other voters. Their enthusiasm is crucial to generating the political momentum neighborhood by neighborhood across the country. If they are depressed, that depression is going to affect the election.

And they are. They are depressed.

 

 

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