Traditionally, the second night of a four-night political convention is the weakest night. The first night kicks things off and usually features the keynote address, the third night usually ends with the acceptance speech from the vice president or vice-presidential nominee, and the final night ends with the acceptance speech from the president or presidential nominee. The second night usually gets a grab-bag of speakers who didn’t really fit with the other three nights.
The night brought some surprises, including two official acts of the president as part of convention programming, which will make the president’s critics tear their hair out, and more or less demonstrate that the line between the president’s official duties and political campaigning has blurred to the point of illegibility. First Trump officially pardoned Jon Ponder, a former bank robber who founded a nonprofit prison ministry, and then he presided over a naturalization ceremony at the White House for five new American citizens. Whatever the lawyers say, a naturalization ceremony is always a powerful moment, and made for riveting television. The inability to hold a traditional convention is a blessing in disguise, in that it prompted convention organizers to show the president doing something instead of saying something. Still, a precedent is being set: Every incumbent president will probably use the White House in some fashion for future national party conventions.
For the Republicans, the second night offered a lot of talk about the economy, particularly early on, and a focus on speakers from swing states that was almost obsessive: A lobsterman from Maine, the owner of Schuette Metals in Rothschild, Wis., a small-town Democratic mayor from Minnesota’s Iron Range, an eight-year-old beneficiary of Right to Try in Wisconsin, Judge Cheryl Allen, the first black woman to be elected to the Pennsylvania superior court, Governor Kim Reynolds of Iowa talking about the derecho storm that hit her state, Florida lieutenant governor Jeanette Nuñez. . . . For the second straight night, the remarks from not-so-well known Americans, such as pro-life activist Abby Johnson and Kentucky attorney general Daniel Cameron, packed more punch than those from experienced officeholders such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or the Trump children.