The Trumpster's big night

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump applauds as he steps to the podium to introduce his wife, Melania, during the opening day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on Monday, July 18, 2016.

CLEVELAND - So whaddya think Donald Trump does with his big night?

Rant and rave and bully and bluster? Or calm the qualms of those who fear a GOP apocalypse?

Trump's acceptance speech Thursday night will characterize his convention and classify his campaign.

It could, if offered as raging rhetoric, relieve any agita Democrats feel in a tightening race with the prospect of a postconvention Trump bump.

With the world watching, if he comes off crazy, a bump could turn to a dump.

But if he serves a softer, saner version of his stated views - on "the wall," for example, or deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants, or banning Muslims - he could ease GOP concerns that he's swamped in November and takes others with him.

Since this is Trump we're talking about, only Trump knows.

Although, whatever it is, it must be getting unprecedented vetting to avoid any Melania Trump-type mini-mess.

Very likely Trump stays Trumpian (long-winded and substance-free), since that, against the odds and despite derision, brought him his party's nomination.

So count on border issues, law and order, strengthening the military, taking care of veterans, and chucking Obamacare for something "so much better."

"I expect he'll talk about all the things he's been talking about, especially border security," says Pennsylvania delegate and U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, whose district runs from south of Harrisburg to north of Scranton.

Barletta, an early supporter of Trump, grabbed national headlines 10 years ago as mayor of Hazleton for saying he'd make his city among "the toughest places in the United States" for illegal immigration.

He was the first mayor to enact ordinances against local businesses hiring undocumented workers after his city's population doubled while its tax base stayed the same.

Trump, he says, got the nation "talking about these issues . . . This guy is connecting with America."

Others say Trump needs to be Trump with a twist.

Pennsylvania delegate Lawrence Tabas is counsel to the state GOP, works for Philly's Obermayer law firm, and is angling to be the next state party chairman.

He says Trump can stick to his themes of strength and security but needs to stress he's leading a movement to create "a new infrastructure for the American economy in order to benefit everyone . . . while pushing the fact we're all Americans and all deserve a president to put our security as priority number one."

But big question? How rough does Trump play?

Does he reprise Mexican "rapists?" Go after "crooked Hillary?" Go after the "dishonest" media?

"I've long since given up trying to predict which direction he'll take," says GOP consultant John Brabender, who was working on Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's reelection campaign before it was abandoned for a VP run.

Brabender thinks Trump should not talk about Hillary Clinton since two former prosecutors, Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani, already hammered her.

"He should offer more of his vision for America and how he plans to get us there, stressing that all of us are in this together," Brabender says.

I figure there's got to be stuff about his family, his success, his abilities to get things done.

And while maybe we won't hear much use of his most-used words - stupid, loser, moron, politically correct - it's hard to think of any Trump speech without something being huge or tremendous or out of control.

Still, it's a bit of a tightrope. Going too soft risks reducing enthusiasm among his very enthusiastic base. Going too hard risks losing a chance to further expand that base.

Trump redefined presidential campaigning. We'll now see if he redefines nomination acceptance speeches.

baerj@phillynews.com

Blog: ph.ly/BaerGrowls

Columns: ph.ly/JohnBaer