CINCINNATI -- When Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump takes the stage on Thursday morning in front of 3,000 expected veterans, he will almost certainly try to attack Hillary Clinton’s trustworthiness and ability to lead globally.
“He wants people to believe he is the leader that can keep them safe and secure from terrorism around the globe and that you do that by approaching it from a position of power before diplomacy,” said Sean Comer, Xavier University’s government relations director. “I think he could also continue to try to paint Hillary as the most corrupt and dangerous politician ever and someone that doesn't respect or care for the military.”
Trump is scheduled to speak at 9 a.m. on the final day of the American Legion Convention, which has drawn 9,000 members to Cincinnati this week. It is Trump’s first visit to the city of Cincinnati since his campaign began.
Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, spoke at the convention on Wednesday, drawing a polite, measured reception. While the veterans listened respectfully and clapped often, the only standing ovation she received was when she left the stage.
Meanwhile Trump has already taken the offensive.
Moments before Clinton took the stage on Wednesday, his campaign released critical comments from three Republican Ohio lawmakers and veterans, including Congressman Brad Wenstrup, a U.S. Army veteran from Cincinnati, who said, “Hillary Clinton has shown behavior unworthy to serve as Commander-in-Chief by exposing our nation’s secrets to our enemies as Secretary of State.”
And moments after Clinton finished speaking, his campaign released a statement from Matt Miller, director of Veterans for Trump, attacking her as “fundamentally unequipped to further the national security interests of the United States and stand up for our veterans.”
Experts predict that Trump’s attacks on Clinton will continue once he takes the podium at the convention.
“Trump will no doubt cast doubt on Clinton's trustworthiness and cast himself as uniquely able to quell trouble around the globe,” said University of Cincinnati political science professor David Niven.
Because Trump is speaking to a neutral audience – and not one that is overwhelmingly in favor of one candidate or another – he may deliver a more scripted speech.
“This is very much a change of pace for him to speak to a room that isn't self selected,” Niven said. “He'll have to adapt and presumably cut down on his free-wheeling style.”
The convention may also provide a new venue for Trump to tout his immigration policy after traveling to Mexico to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and delivering a major immigration policy speech in Phoenix on Wednesday.
Trump may actually tie his immigration policy to his plans for helping veterans, said Joe Valenzano, chair of University of Dayton’s communications department and an expert on communications rhetoric.
“A smart way to pitch those issues together in the same speech is to highlight some specific individual veterans who hail from diverse backgrounds who were either immigrants themselves or children of immigrants,” Valenzano said. “This would tie things to the issue he cares about most, while also not sacrificing being strong, and also making any seeming change in the substance of his position more palatable, because supporting veterans is hard to argue with.”
Experts may not know exactly what Trump will say on Thursday, but they all agree that his tendency to be unpredictable makes it impossible to guess.
“I’m not sure what he will do, as he is unpredictable,” Valenzano said.