Josh Magness, Julie, Gallagher, Jessie Campisi, correspondents
CLEVELAND — Moments after GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump finished his speech at the Republican National Convention Thursday night, Maryland delegates reacted with universal praise and optimism about his chances against presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
With torrents of red, white and blue balloons falling from the ceiling of the Quicken Loans Arena onto the cheering crowd, Joe Cluster, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, said Trump’s speech will likely draw in undecided voters.
“You saw a side of Trump where he is trying to unite all Americans behind his campaign,” Cluster said. “You know, he’s out there saying he wants to work for the American people and not asking for people to be ‘with her’, he’ll be ‘with them.’”
Much of Trump’s speech had a dark tone, as he bemoaned the terrorist attacks and “unfair trade deals” that he attributed to President Barack Obama and, by extension, Clinton, who served as secretary of state during his first term.
“This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction and weakness,” Trump said. “But Hillary Clinton’s legacy does not have to be America’s legacy.”
Trump spent several minutes talking about unemployment and poverty in minority communities. He also handed an olive branch to the LGBTQ community by promising to “do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.”
Kendel Ehrlich, former first lady of Maryland and at-large delegate, said she expected Trump to reach out to diverse subsets of the population like the LGBTQ community, even if some people were surprised to hear that message from the nominee.
“I wasn’t surprised at all (about his comments),” Ehrlich said. “He is about taking care of America, everybody included. And the Republican Party has been that way for a long time — you can’t listen to the media.”
Ehrlich also said she believed that Trump, especially in an election cycle with an anti-establishment sentiment, will ultimately triumph.
“The Republicans are going to win this election,” she said. “The Democrats are the party of status quo, and that’s exactly what (Trump) said tonight. He is the new fresh face that’s going to get things done.”
The Maryland Democratic Party, however, criticized Trump on Twitter for avoiding specific policy details in his remarks.
“Everything will happen ‘fast’ or ‘very quickly’ in a Trump administration,” the party tweeted. “Lots of promises, few details.”
Trump made a concerted effort to appear as a servant to the American people, arguing that Clinton’s run for president was self-serving.
“I have loved my life in business,” Trump said. “But now, my sole and exclusive mission is to go to work for our country — to go to work for all of you. It’s time to deliver a victory for the American people.”
Ben Marchi, a Maryland delegate from the first congressional district, said Trump appealed not only to the conservative base with his remarks, but “blue collar Reagan Democrats” as well.
“With an attitude like this and a message like this, we are going to beat Hillary like Elizabeth Warren beats a tom-tom,” Marchi said, referencing the ongoing battle between Warren and Trump over Warren’s Native American heritage.
Diana Waterman, chairman of the Maryland GOP, agreed with the other members of the state’s delegation that Trump’s speech was “amazing.”
Moving forward, it will also strengthen his bid for the presidency, she added.
“I think the combination of his speech, Governor (Mike) Pence’s speech and all of the speeches from his kids have really helped solidify him as a candidate,” Waterman said. “I think America is going to take a better look at him.”