CLEVELAND — Proclaiming “I am your voice” to a charged-up crowd, Donald J. Trump completed his unlikely ascent to the top of the Republican Party’s presidential ticket Thursday night.
He told convention delegates and a television audience that he understood their anger and angst and that he is the person to solve problems they face.
Mr. Trump accepted the GOP nomination and capped the convention here with a speech that depicted a “moment of crisis for our nation,” while also trying to soften some of his sharper edges for a general-election audience.
“We will be a country of generosity and warmth,” he said. “But we will also be a country of law and order.”
Mr. Trump began his remarks by saying, “I humbly and gratefully accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.” That was as far as he got into his speech before the Quicken Loans Arena crowd began chanting “USA!” for the first -- but far from the last -- time.
A copy of Mr. Trump's speech had been leaked to the press late Thursday afternoon. He went briefly off script almost immediately, noting his own historic vote totals in the Republican primaries while turnout in the Democratic primaries had declined from previous cycles. “Not so good, not so good,” he said with mock sorrow.
Mr. Trump reprised many of the themes that have dominated the convention and his campaign this year. He pledged to wall off the U.S. border with Mexico and castigated his Democratic rival, saying “the legacy of Hillary Clinton” was “death, destruction terrorism and weakness.”
He repeated his opposition to multi-country trade deals and pledged that “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo.” And he warned of terrorism from abroad and violence at home, saying Americans were haunted by “chaos in our communities.”
Never one for half measures, Mr. Trump pledged that “the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon -- and I mean very soon -- come to an end. Beginning on Jan. 20, 2017, safety will be restored.”
Later, he added, “We're going to defeat the barbarians of ISIS, and we're going to defeat them fast.”
Mr. Trump reiterated his pledge to suspend immigration from nations where terrorism is an active concern. That reflects a more recent softening of his earlier positions in which he seemed to favor banning immigration by Muslims. But in many policy areas, he offered few policy specifics, relying largely on familiar proposals like reducing taxes and regulations and repealing Obamacare.
Mr. Trump offered much more specific criticism of Ms. Clinton's tenure as secretary of state for President Barack Obama. He revisited criticisms of her handling of the 2012 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, as well as an ongoing controversy surrounding her use of a private e-mail server. “Her single greatest crime may be committing such an egregious crime and getting away with it,” he said.
But his broader critique was that in recent years, Middle Eastern nations like Libya and Syria, previously governed by strongmen, have spiraled out of control once those rulers were deposed.
“America is far less safe, and the world is far less stable” because of her appointment, Mr. Trump said. “After 15 years of wars in the Middle East ... the situation is worse than it has ever been before.”
After the crowd broke out into chants of “lock her up!” at one point, Mr. Trump interjected: “Let’s defeat her in November."
As he has throughout the campaign, Mr. Trump portrayed himself as the outsider in the race, saying that Ms. Clinton was supported by moneyed interests because “they have total control over everything she does. She is their puppet, and they pull the strings.” At one point, Mr. Trump even speculated that supporters of Ms. Clinton's Democratic rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, would back him.
“Millions of Democrats will join our movement because we are going to fix the system so it works for all Americans,” he said.
“Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it,” he said to a mixture of laughter and cheers.
Mr. Trump promised his speech would be a “straightforward assessment of the state of our nation,” adding that, “We cannot afford to be so politically correct anymore.”
That was a huge applause line, but Mr. Trump arguably portrayed the country's plight as more dire than it is.
“Decades of progress in breaking down crime are now being reversed” by the Obama administration, Mr. Trump said. But while crime has spiked in major cities this year, that follows a years-long nationwide decline in violent crime rates. FBI statistics released last year showed that violent crime in 2014 was down nearly 7 percent since 2010, and more than 16 percent lower than in 2005.
Mr. Trump did, however, make an effort to reach out to communities that have reacted badly to his rhetoric.
He would, he said, ensure his policies “make life better for young Americans in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Ferguson” -- cities that have been flashpoints of violence and disputes with police.
And in noting the mass killing of 49 people in an Orlando dance club, Mr. Trump said, “This time the terrorist targeted the LGBTQ community. No good, and we're going to stop it.” He pledged to protect LGBTQ Americans from “a hateful foreign ideology.”
That promise won applause as well, a notable expression of support from a party whose 2016 platform is in many ways hostile to causes such as same-sex marriage. Activists have faulted other Republicans, including Florida Gov. Rick Scott during his own convention speech this week, for glossing over the fact that the shooting victims were gay.
Mr. Trump took notice of the warm response. “As a Republican, it is so nice hearing you cheering for what I just said” he said to even more applause.
Almost no public appearance involving Mr. Trump is complete without a protester, and his convention speech was no exception. About 25 minutes into the speech, a protester was removed from the event amid chants of “USA! USA!” Mr. Trump waited silently for the protester's removal, looking off to the side.
“Aren't our police great?” he said.
Mr. Trump’s daughter and close adviser, Ivanka Trump, introduced her father. She talked warmly of him, recalling playing in his office in Trump Tower, constructing buildings out of Legos while he was constructing real buildings with concrete and steel. She praised his work ethic and his success. She described him as “tough, persevering, honest and real.”
Even as the lead-up speakers were extolling the candidate, analysis of Mr. Trump’s remarks was underway.
Hours before the speech, copies appeared online. According to Politico, a super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton blasted the text out on its email list.
Discussion of the speech, and comments about the leaking, spread over social media while attendees in Quicken Loans Arena listened to long stretches of music as they awaited speakers.
A series of politicians and others continued the convention themes of criticizing Ms. Clinton and praising Mr. Trump. The speakers included Brock Mealer, a motivational speaker, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, Dr. Lisa Shin, an optometrist and member of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, and Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University.
Venture capitalist Peter Thiel touted his own business experience and Mr. Trump's. And as an openly gay man, he represented a prominent nod to diversity by the convention.
"Of course, every American has a unique identity,” he said. “I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all I am proud to be an American. I don’t pretend to agree with every plank in our party’s platform. But fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline. And nobody in this race is being honest about it except Donald Trump."
Reince Priebus has had one of the more difficult jobs of the 2016 election season, holding the Republican Party together while managing a polarizing candidate who refuses to tone down his blistering rhetoric.
But when the Republican National Committee chairman took the stage, he kept his comments on Donald Trump to a minimum.
Instead he did what most Republicans who have had issues with the party’s nominee did: Attack the likely Democratic choice while calling for a better America.
“The Republican Party will not stop until that becomes a reality,” Mr. Priebus said. “That’s why need to stop Hillary Clinton.”
Mr. Priebus did give a brief nod to the Republican nominee, urging the convention delegates to vote.
“Hold on, help is coming with Donald Trump and [vice presidential nominee] Mike Pence,” Mr. Priebus said. “America is ready for a comeback.”
Chris Potter: email@example.com or 412-263-2533. The Associated Press contributed.