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Republican Convention Day 1: 'Make America Safe Again'


And I'm Steve Inskeep in Cleveland, where Donald Trump's campaign seeks to expand his appeal at the Republican convention in this city. A general election calls on Trump to win voters beyond fans like Tricia Cunningham. She has worked for Trump's campaign in her state of Pennsylvania. Here in Cleveland, she stepped on stage yesterday by the Cuyahoga River.


TRICIA CUNNINGHAM: First off, I want to say I love all the Hillary for prison shirts, y'all.


INSKEEP: She spoke to several hundred people gathered in a riverside park.


CUNNINGHAM: What we are doing here this week and what we are doing here today is not only representing the united party of the Republican people and our conservative ways and the veterans and the women and the conservatives that believe in the values that are going to make this country great again, but we are here to honor the Lord.

We have had a lot of bad things happening lately.

INSKEEP: That part of Cunningham's talk amounted to her take on who's for Trump. She drew applause from a crowd that was mostly white, mostly male, including a group called Bikers 4 Trump. They represent groups who respond most strongly to his messages about immigrants, Muslims and President Obama. We put questions to a senior Trump adviser. We met Kellyanne Conway in a Cleveland hotel lobby where Trump campaign operatives mingled among Secret Service agents. We asked which voters Trump has and who he needs.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Roughly speaking, Trump voters tend to be more non-college-educated than average, more white, more male. You see them roughly between the ages of about 32 and 55. That tends to be sweet spots for Trump.

He's leading by double digits among independents in the states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. What's especially relevant about independents is that the numbers have just grown. They've exploded in some states. I remember doing a project in 1996, 20 years ago, where there were only two states at that time that had a majority registered independent or unaffiliated, New Jersey and Massachusetts. Now you've got upwards of 15, 16 states where a majority of people say I'm not going to declare. I'm neither party. I'm up for grabs.

INSKEEP: Let me ask about a couple of things that you said there because it's fascinating. You said between 32 and 55. That's the classic Trump voter among men. Let me make a wild guess - under 32, they're much more likely Democrats and not thinking about the Republican Party. Over 55, they think Trump is crass. Is that what you see?

CONWAY: I would say that's too much of an overgeneralization only because of this. With the law-and-order candidacy that Trump and Pence are now promoting - older women tend to traditionally be law-and-order voters. They tend to respect authority. They respect the police. They don't like the random violence. And it's yet to be seen how recent events of cop killing manifest itself among that group who otherwise would be inclined to vote for Hillary Clinton.

Among the young people - the millennial polling is all over the map because I think in many ways, Trump can appeal to some of the young, aspirational voters who want upward economic mobility. We tend to look at millennials, not as 18-to-29-year-olds. What we look at is 18-to-24-year-olds have a certain issue set that they look at - much more likely to talk about abortion, contraception, climate change; the 25-to-32-year-old set, male and female, particularly male, looking at becoming part of the ownership and investor society.

INSKEEP: Let's talk about skeptical or undecided women. Define the problem for Donald Trump when it comes to skeptical women.

CONWAY: For Donald Trump, the challenge among women is multifold. One is there's this question about, can he really make good on his promises? Where are the specifics? Where are the details? Women are very savvy voters because they're very savvy consumers. They insist on data and proof that this does do what it says, the product can deliver on its representations.

Look at Hillary Clinton's trustworthy and honesty numbers. They're 15 points worse, on average, than they were the day she announced for president. That's just remarkable. Female candidates down-ballot can normally bank on being seen as less corruptible, more ethical, warm, accessible, fresh, new - nobody confuses Hillary Clinton with any of these attributes. The Trump-Pence ticket is going closer to being more optimistic, more forward-looking, a little bit more genial.

INSKEEP: And with a view to that geniality that Conway hopes can attract more women, she suggests that Trump is not actually the hyper-aggressive politician here. She says Clinton and her supporters are.

CONWAY: What did Elizabeth Warren tweet out when Pence has chosen? These two small, weak, insecure men - really? Imagine if...

INSKEEP: Didn't Trump refer to Hillary and President Obama as weak?

CONWAY: Well, sure, but they're weak on foreign - on national security. That's his point. They've been weak on ISIS. They've been weak in their response to the shootings across this country. Who can argue with that?

INSKEEP: Some of our conversation with Kellyanne Conway, senior adviser to the Trump campaign. NPR political reporter Scott Detrow is in our studios here in Cleveland. Good morning, Scott.

INSKEEP: Morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: He's with us throughout the week. What do you hear there?

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Well, I think that law-and-order message does have the potential to be very powerful given all the violence we've been seeing lately and the fact that Hillary Clinton is aligned, associated with the administration in power. But as to the demographics that you were talking about, I mean, the fact is it's an increasingly diverse electorate, especially in swing states like Florida. And while Trump is doing well with white voters, minority groups like African-Americans, Latinos - they're currently breaking in wide margins for Hillary Clinton.

INSKEEP: OK. Well, let's listen to some of the first night of the convention intended to broaden Trump's appeal. Here's NPR's Mara Liasson.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: The theme of the first night of the GOP convention was make America safe again. With the recent killing of police officers as the backdrop, Trump, who has proclaimed himself the law-and-order candidate, was lauded by speaker after speaker as the only man who could save America from illegal immigrants, Islamic terrorists and cop killers. The speakers painted a picture of a fearful nation, a country unstable and divided, in need of a strong leader. Rudy Giuliani, the former law-and-order mayor of New York City, delivered an angry speech reminding Republicans about what unites them, antipathy to Hillary Clinton.


RUDY GIULIANI: Who would trust Hillary Clinton to protect them?


GIULIANI: I wouldn't. Would you?


LIASSON: Several speakers called for Clinton to be sent to jail, including Pat Smith, the mother of a soldier who died in the terrorist attack on the consulate in Benghazi. She said she blames Hillary Clinton personally for her son's death.


PAT SMITH: If Hillary Clinton can't give us the truth, why should we give her the presidency?


SMITH: That's right, Hillary for prison. She deserves to be in stripes.

LIASSON: Most of the program was aimed at energizing the conservative base of the party. But there was another goal as well, to help Trump change the minds of voters who are not supporting him, particularly women. Trump enlisted his wife to deliver the keynote address.


DONALD TRUMP: Ladies and gentleman, it is my great honor to present the next first lady of the United States - my wife, an amazing mother, an incredible woman, Melania Trump. Thank you very much.

LIASSON: Melania Trump is one of the most mysterious and reclusive figures of Trump's entourage. She hasn't been on the campaign trail in more than a month. She didn't appear on stage with the rest of Trump's family when he announced his vice presidential pick. But last night, she made the longest speech of her brief career as a political spouse. Impeccable in a snow white dress, she gave a poised and self-assured speech where she talked about her upbringing in Slovenia and her career as a model.


MELANIA TRUMP: I traveled the world while working hard in the incredible arena of fashion. After living and working in Milan and Paris, I arrived in New York City 20 years ago. And I saw both the joys and hardships of daily life. On July 28, 2006, I was very proud to become citizens of the United States.

LIASSON: Melania was introducing herself to the country, but also giving Trump the kind of validation that only a wife can give.


TRUMP: He's tough when he has to be. But he's also kind and fair and caring. This kindness is not always noted, but it is there for all to see. That is one reason I fell in love with him to begin with it.

LIASSON: Donald Trump needs help with women voters. Some polls show 77 percent of women view him unfavorably. Melania Trump was trying to humanize him, just like Michelle Obama and Ann Romney did at the 2012 conventions for their husbands. But she also stuck to the main theme of Trump's campaign.


TRUMP: Our country is underperforming and needs new leadership. Leadership is also what the world needs. Donald wants our country to move forward in the most positive of ways. Everyone wants change. Donald is the only one that can deliver it.

LIASSON: And that was the message Donald Trump's convention wants to send.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Mara Liasson here in Cleveland.

There was also a message last night that Trump's campaign might have preferred not to send. NPR's Scott Detrow is still in our studios to catch us up? What was it, Scott?

DETROW: Shortly after the speech ended, people online noticed sharp similarities in a couple passages of this speech and one that Michelle Obama gave to the Democratic Convention in 2008.

INSKEEP: Similarities?

DETROW: Similarities almost word for word. I'll read you a clip right here. Melania Trump says from a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise and goes on, nearly word-for-word from what Michelle Obama said in 2008. The main difference is that Michelle Obama said Barack and I were raised with so many of those same values before going on to list them.

INSKEEP: So she didn't say that Barack and I part. But some...

DETROW: Melania did not say that.

INSKEEP: What did the Trump campaign say about what's being described by some as plagiarism?

DETROW: They issued a statement that basically didn't address the plagiarism issue, but basically implied Melania Trump worked with speechwriters to craft this.

INSKEEP: OK. That's NPR political reporter Scott Detrow in our studios here in Cleveland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.