Youth Is Served at Republicans’ Podium

CLEVELAND (CN) – The next generation of Republican lawmakers made their cases to delegates Monday at a convention showcasing a changing Republican Party.
     Speeches from Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Joni Ernst of Iowa, both freshmen who have been in the Senate for just over a year, punctuated a night of speeches from television stars, military veterans and others.
     Another first-termer, Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke, held the final speaking slot Monday night. Ernst, Cotton and Zinke all veterans, pushed the night’s theme: “Make America Safe Again,” as did Darryl Glenn, a county commissioner in Colorado’s El Paso County, challenging incumbent Democrat Michael Bennett in the race for U.S. Senate.
     Old guard Republicans also spoke Monday night, including six-term Texas Congressman Michael McCaul and four-term Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions.
     Former New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani drew the loudest cheers of the night, except for the all-but certain nominee Donald Trump.
     Cotton, the youngest member of the Senate, has supported Trump in public statements and Ernst was considered a possible vice presidential pick before she pulled her name from consideration.
     Cotton seemed to go off script by saying he personally would take the decision to go to war seriously because of his experience as a soldier in Iraq.
     “Believe me, no man wants more war if he’s seen the face of war,” Cotton said. “I’ve planned memorial services for fallen comrades in the mountains of Afghanistan. I’ve carried their flag-draped caskets off a plane. I’ve buried them in Arlington National Cemetery.”
     Cotton spoke of his decision to leave his job in law to join the Army after the 9/11 terror attacks, and told the delegates repeatedly that “help is on the way.”
     Glenn too emphasized his personal story and closed his speech with a reminder that he is running for U.S. Senate in Colorado.
     Glenn, who is black, took on the issue of race directly, one of the only speakers to do so on Monday night. He blamed President Barack Obama for hurting race relations during his time in office, calling him the “divider in chief.”
     “You know, I’m often asked, why are you a Republican?” Glenn said. “And it’s because the Democratic Party is the party of handouts. And after over seven and a half years the only thing we have left in our pockets is change.”
     Ernst and Zinke had to follow Trump’s rock-star entrance, through a brightly illuminated door on the massive, darkened stage while the lights in the arena lowered and Queen’s “We Are the Champions” blared from loudspeakers.
     After Trump’s entrance and his wife Melania’s speech, many delegates streamed toward the exits, leaving Ernst and Zinke speaking to a mostly empty floor.
     But both roused the sleepy crowd at times, particularly when they criticized Hillary Clinton and Obama for their foreign policy.
     “I struggle to think of how many times our flag will fly at half mast if Hillary Clinton is in the Oval Office,” Zinke said to the half-empty arena.
     The fresh faces at the podium Monday were welcome to some delegates listening on the floor of Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland.
     Sal Calise, a delegate from New York, called the Cotton and Glenn speeches the highlights of the night and said they helped calm some of the unrest caused by the Monday afternoon rules fight.
     “That’s what I think the convention needed to uplift the divisiveness of the convention,” Calise said on the arena floor.
     Calise, however, wondered if so many young faces spoke Monday because the Trump campaign, which has struggled to win many old-time Republicans, was unable to persuade more established party representatives to speak.
     “I think it’s because of how … different Trump is, to put it nicely,” Calise said.
     South Carolina delegate Steven Blanton called the new faces on the podium a signal to voters that the Republican Party is not stale.
     “I think it reassures the American people that we’re a vibrant party, we’re a party of tomorrow and we’re a party that is going to be relevant in the future,” Blanton said.

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