ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
The newly minted Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is now back here. He flew in today from New York to support his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who is speaking tonight at the convention. As he arrived in Ohio, Trump said Pence had become a friend, but to a national audience, the Republican vice presidential nominee is still a relative unknown.
NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson is with me here at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. And Mara, what are you expecting from Pence's speech tonight?
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Well, as you said, we know from polling that since Trump put Pence on the ticket, very few Americans know much about him, so he'll introduce himself to the country tonight. I also think you'll see him do something very interesting, which is paint a picture of Donald Trump that puts him squarely into the mainstream conservative tradition.
You know, there's been a lot of talk, a lot of angst, really, from Republicans about how Trump has abandoned conservative principles in so many areas. But Pence describes Trump as another Ronald Reagan. He says he's a strong figure who relates to ordinary people.
And we also know that Paul Ryan is going to introduce Pence tonight. We know that he and Mitch McConnell have decided the only way to protect their Republican majorities in Congress is to unify the party behind Trump. So today Pence's message, having Ryan standing next to him is, Trump is one of us.
SIEGEL: Well, in addition to hearing from Mike Pence, we're going to hear from several of Donald Trump's former rivals tonight. What are you looking for from them?
LIASSON: Well, we're obviously looking for how wholeheartedly they endorse Trump, who beat them. Scott Walker, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz will all speak. Rubio will be on video. All of these men are considered possible candidates for 2020 if Trump should lose. There's probably more talk here about the next election than at any past convention because so many Republicans are pessimistic about their chances.
But of all the former Trump rivals, Cruz has been the most focused on another run. His team is reconstituting itself with think tanks and PACs, kind of setting up the infrastructure for another run already. And today Cruz was speaking to his supporters in Cleveland, and at the very moment he told them that, quote, "our party now has a nominee," Trump's plane flew behind him, and the crowd started booing.
LIASSON: But one thing we don't know yet is whether Cruz will endorse Trump. He hasn't said whether he will. And even more interesting, Trump gave him a primetime speaking slot without knowing whether he would.
SIEGEL: Mara, you mentioned the pessimism about the national ticket's chances in November. There's another kind of pessimism here that we heard a lot of certainly on night one - pessimism about the condition of life in America today and a tremendous amount of attacking Hillary Clinton as being responsible for it all. Do you expect to hear more of that tonight?
LIASSON: I expect to hear more, but Paul Manafort said there's going to be more pro-Trump talk and relatively less anti-Hillary talk for the last two nights. You'll see another Trump child speak tonight - Eric Trump. Trump's family have made the most positive case for him. Some of the other speakers have mentioned him only in passing.
But conventions are supposed to do two things. They're supposed to fire up your supporters, to go out and defeat the opponent but also paint a positive case for Trump, convince voters that he's likable and, more importantly, that he's presidential. And you need a positive message for that.
SIEGEL: Another development today in the story about Melania Trump's speech - what happened today?
LIASSON: What happened was staff writer from Trump's organization took responsibility, offered to resign. Trump refused her offer. She is Meredith McIver, a longtime ghostwriter on Trump's books. And what was really interesting is that she said she read Mrs. Trump several passages from Michelle Obama's 2008 speech over the phone and that Melania Trump has always liked Michelle Obama.
SIEGEL: That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson with me in Cleveland. Mara, thank you.
LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.