More than a week after boasting that the speaker slots for the Republican National Convention were “totally filled,” Donald Trump’s plans for Cleveland are still a mystery.
Trump promised his list would be released on Wednesday, only to announce that day that he’d delay its release to Thursday to focus more on Hillary Clinton’s email scandal. But the candidate seemed unable to focus on the scandal — the biggest political gift yet of his troubled campaign — and spent more time talking about decades-old business dealings than the convention. The deadly shooting in Dallas on Friday sidelined planned politics the next day, but Trump and his campaign have been silent in the days since on when the convention speakers list would be announced, and did not respond to repeated requests from NBC News.
With mere days before the event kicks off in earnest (platform committee meetings are already underway this week), we know more about who won’t be in Ohio to see Trump accept the Republican Party nomination than who will: 2012 nominee Mitt Romney and 2008 nominee John McCain won’t attend, with the latter citing his competitive reelection bid. The Bush family — which includes the party’s only two living past presidents and a 2016 candidate, Jeb, who Trump mocked mercilessly — won’t be attending, nor will Ohio’s popular Republican Gov. John Kasich, who ran against Trump this year as well.
Also not attending according to reports? New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, Gov. Nikki Haley, Utah’s Rep. Mia Love, "God Bless the USA" song writer Lee Greenwood, conservative rocker Ted Nugent, and New England Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady. A number of corporate sponsors are taking a pass, too, as aligning your brand with the polarizing nominee proves to be more liability than perk.
We even know more about efforts from anti-Trump delegates who seek to stop his nomination at the convention in an unlikely floor fight than the actual planned ceremony.
In the week since Trump claimed that his list was already filled, a few high profile attendee names have trickled out: brief 2016 contender and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will speak, as will Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst. Trump’s chief 2016 rival Sen. Ted Cruz announced last week that he’d been asked to speak on Thursday and had accepted. The legendary coach Bobby Knight will also attend, according to Trump.
Trump and his campaign have insisted that the convention — which has in past years drawn previous nominees and presidents, rising conservative stars, elected officials, and celebrities for three days of pomp and circumstance to officially kick off the general election — would be different.
"It's not going to be a ho-hum lineup of the typical politicians," daughter Ivanka Trump said more than a week ago. ”It's going to be a great combination of our great politicians, but also great American businessmen and women and leaders across industry and leaders across really all the sectors, from athletes to coaches and everything in between."
Two sources involved with the planning said to expect Trump family members and friends to take top speaking slots. Trump has said his children will all speak, and regular surrogates Ivanka, Eric and Donald Jr., are likely to take central roles. Surrogates and allies like Gov. Chris Christie, Dr. Ben Carson and Newt Gingrich are also expected to take the stage.