By Steve Holland
CLEVELAND (Reuters) – Donald Trump will accuse Democratic rival Hillary Clinton of being corrupt and ineffective and portray himself as a friend of the working class who will restore law and order in a speech on Thursday accepting the Republican presidential nomination.
“I’m with you, I will fight for you, and I will win for you,” Trump will say, according to speech excerpts released by his campaign and a draft text circulating among news organizations.
The Trump campaign did not confirm or deny the authenticity of the draft of the speech Trump was scheduled to deliver at the Republican National Convention at 10:15 p.m. (0215 GMT on Friday).
The New York businessman, who has never held elective office, needs a strong performance to improve his chances of getting a boost in opinion polls as Democrats prepare for their own, more scripted convention next week in Philadelphia.
In a contest that pits two politicians viewed as unfavorable by large segments of the American people, Trump will accuse Clinton of failures while serving as President Barack Obama’s first-term secretary of state and cite her use of a private email server and destruction of emails as evidence that “corruption has reached a level like never before.”
Trump will also blame her policies for the rise of Islamic State militants, a situation many Democrats blame on Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, for launching the Iraq war. He will also criticize her willingness to bring in thousands of refugees from the Syrian civil war.
“Hillary Clinton’s legacy does not have to be America’s legacy,” Trump will say. “The problems we face now – poverty and violence at home, war and destruction abroad – will last only as long as we continue relying on the same politicians who created them.”
Trump and his aides have been unable to put to rest questions about whether they can mount a sophisticated campaign to take on Clinton’s well-oiled operation. He currently trails Clinton, who is seeking to become the first woman elected U.S. president, in most opinion polls ahead of the Nov. 8 election.
In his speech, Trump will also raise the specter of crime, saying gun violence is raging in many cities and that 180,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records “are tonight roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens.”
Trump will tell Americans he will speedily address the violence that has dominated headlines, such as the shooting deaths of five Dallas police officers earlier this month.
“I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on Jan. 20, 2017, safety will be restored,” Trump will say. The next president takes office on Jan. 20.
Trump will also say that middle-income Americans and businesses will enjoy tax cuts and that taxes will be simplified for everyone.
He would roll back federal regulations that he said cost the country $2 trillion a year, providing new wealth that will allow an upsurge in spending to repair roads, bridges, airports and tunnels.
“This, in turn, will create millions of jobs,” Trump said.
Trump will be introduced by his daughter Ivanka Trump who has been an important behind-the-scenes adviser. The remarks by Trump, 70, will close out a convention boycotted by many big-name establishment Republicans, such as 2012 nominee Mitt Romney and members of the Bush family that gave the party its last two presidents.
Trump will present himself as someone who can solve problems that have proved difficult over the decades.
“I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves. Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it,” he will say.
The prevailing narrative at the Cleveland convention has not been about Trump’s positions, but dominated instead by the failure of he party’s various factions to unite behind Trump because of lingering concerns over his policy positions and temperament.
Trump wants to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, ban Muslims from war-torn Middle Eastern countries and renegotiate international trade agreements. He also says he would force U.S. allies in Europe and Asia to pay more for the U.S. defense umbrella. All those positions go against prevailing Republican beliefs.
“We are going to have an immigration system that works, but one that works for the American people,” according to Trump’s speech draft.
A series of distractions has largely thwarted a bid by the Trump campaign to show him as a caring father and magnanimous business leader who would bring greater prosperity and safety to the United States.
Trump’s wife, Melania Trump, made the biggest strides toward that goal. But when it was discovered her remarks repeated lines from a 2008 speech by Michelle Obama, the wife of Democratic President Barack Obama, the uproar lasted for three days.
On Wednesday night, Trump’s last major rival during the bitterly fought Republican primary battle, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, was booed off the stage for refusing to endorse Trump and urging Republicans instead to “vote your conscience.”
The Cruz and Trump camps spent the day on Thursday exchanging insults, with Cruz saying he could not endorse a candidate who during the primary campaign had insulted his wife, Heidi, and suggested his father had some role in the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
(Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson, Angela Moon, Michelle Conlin and David Alexander; Writing by Steve Holland; Editing by Howard Goller and Peter Cooney)