RNC

Law and Order Will Be a Big Convention Theme

Politics Dow Jones Newswires

The Republican National Convention will open Monday under the pall of antipolice violence, a development likely to bring a new emphasis to presumptive nominee Donald Trump's repeated pledges to make law and order a theme of both his nominating convention and the looming fall campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton. 

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The Sunday killing of three police officers in Baton Rouge, La., rattled a nation already reeling after a recent terrorist attack in Orlando, Fla., as well as a summer of extraordinary violence and turmoil at home and abroad that includes the deaths of two black men at the hands of police, a terrorist attack in France and an assault on police at a protest in Dallas. 

In response, Mr. Trump has declared that the GOP will run on a platform of taking decisive action to end the violence. Indeed, the party said Sunday that the theme of Monday's opening-night program will be "Make America Safe Again." 

"We grieve for the officers killed in Baton Rouge today. How many law enforcement and people have to die because of a lack of leadership in our country? We demand law and order," Mr. Trump wrote online after the Baton Rouge shooting. 

Introducing his running mate Mike Pence on Saturday -- the day before the Baton Rouge shooting -- Mr. Trump described the Republican ticket as "the law and order candidates," and said that Republicans are "the law and order party." 

"We're going to change things around. There's going to be respect again for law and order," Mr. Trump said. 

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The Baton Rouge shooting is the kind of "awful event" that "probably helps the Trump campaign," said former George W. Bush aide Pete Wehner, who opposes Mr. Trump. "This kind of malevolence is guaranteed to make the law-and-order message resonate with lots of voters, just as happened in 1968." Then, Richard Nixon also ran on a law-and-order theme, though Mr. Wehner said today's conditions aren't identical. 

Other Republicans are picking up the theme, trying to tie violent events to President Barack Obama. "Events seem to be spinning out of control due to weak leadership in the White House," said former Louisiana Rep. Bob Livingston, a Republican who is now a lobbyist and consultant. "I pray they can be contained and that nothing of the sort happens in Cleveland." 

Write to Byron Tau at byron.tau@wsj.com and Janet Hook at janet.hook@wsj.com