The end of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail investigation may represent the beginning of something that has eluded the Republican Party for months: unification behind its presumptive presidential nominee.
While Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta said on Tuesday “we're moving on” from the issue, Donald Trump made clear he would be doing no such thing, and he was backed up by House Speaker Paul Ryan, who said FBI Director James B. Comey would be called to hearings on the matter.
In a year when the Republican Party has consistently appeared to be on the verge of collapse, the decision from the head of the FBI—a registered Republican who served in George W. Bush’s administration—could have sparked another round of finger pointing, self-loathing, and wild accusations.
Instead, the Republican reactions from Capitol Hill in Washington to Trump Tower in New York reinforced each other. Even Trump, whose proverbial political shotgun often seems aimed at his own foot, mostly stayed out his own way.
“Running against Clinton is good on a lot of fronts,” Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign chairman, said in an interview. “She is the epitome of the establishment and with what people see as what's wrong with the country, and what they want changed. From the standpoint of our party, no one wants a third Obama term and that's what the country sees her as.”
Trump will have more opportunities to hammer Clinton between now and the Republican convention beginning on July 18. But cutting into her leads in state and national polls will depend on whether Trump can stay focused on Clinton and avoid the unforced errors that have defined his campaign in recent weeks.
Even former Senator Scott Brown, a surrogate for Trump, wondered if he could stay disciplined long enough to drive home that message. “We will see for sure,” he said.
Just a few hours after Brown spoke, Trump appeared to compliment Saddam Hussein during a rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, which was reported widely and led to the Clinton campaign calling it more evidence of “how unworthy he is of the office he seeks.”
Trump has a trip to Washington planned this week, his team is preparing for an economic speech in which the candidate will unveil new changes to his tax plan, and Trump may announce his running mate next week.
On Tuesday, he received another strong sign of party unity when Scott Walker, a resistant swing-stage governor, announced he had decided to speak at the convention, even as many other elected officials continued to avoid the spotlight. “If someone doesn't cast a vote for the Republican nominee, they are effectively casting a vote for her and that's part of what I'd be willing to talk about,” he said, according to an ABC affiliate in Wisconsin.