CLEVELAND — Fewer than 12 hours after the balloons dropped on his Cleveland coronation, signalling the official start of the general election campaign, Republican nominee Donald Trump took another unexpected turn Friday and focused his attention backward, on primary opponent Ted Cruz.
On a day of the week during which presidential candidates typically try to maximize the positive bounce from their conventions, Trump instead decided to settle a score with the Texas senator who refused to endorse Trump earlier in the week.
While Trump focused on fear in the country, Democrats will focus on making the country fear Trump.
Already on Friday, some Democrats were beginning to brand Trump as a would-be autocrat, because of his boast during his nomination acceptance speech that he is the only person who can lead the nation out of what he described as chaos and terror threats.
“Is this guy running for president or dictator?” Senator Bernie Sanders, whose supporters Trump has been trying to court, wrote on Twitter.
Trump’s acceptance speech was read from a teleprompter, and he largely stuck to the script. But on Friday morning, he was back to old Trump, the one who never shies from a fight, even when no fight is required.
With his running mate Mike Pence — who had backed Cruz during the primary — standing awkwardly behind him in Cleveland, Trump rehashed old battles with Cruz, such as the unflattering photo of Cruz’s wife that Trump distributed on his Twitter account. He also returned to his discussion of a tabloid news story alleging Cruz’s father met with Lee Harvey Oswald and may have had a role in the assassination of President Kennedy.
Trump on Friday canceled an event in Akron and instead appeared with Pence at a hotel in Cleveland. He said he didn’t mind that some top Republicans skipped the convention.
“I ran as an outsider, I didn’t want anybody. Now I have guys like Mike Pence,” Trump said. “See now if I don’t win, I’m going to blame Mike, right?”
Pence chuckled in the background.
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