Hurricane Gustav in 2008 and Hurricane Isaac in 2012 upended the first nights of the Republican National Convention. In 2016, a man-made tempest is making landfall here on the shores of Lake Erie: Hurricane Donald.

The coming days will undoubtedly be awkward. We know many luminaries - including Mitt Romney, John McCain and the Bush clan - will skip the festivities to celebrate Trump officially completing his hostile takeover of the Republican Party. There's a lot we still don't know.

1 How many speakers don't say his name?

Chris Christie was widely lampooned in Tampa four years ago for delivering a self-aggrandising convention keynote that did not mention Romney until 16 minutes in and, even then, made him seem lukewarm about the then nominee. That could happen again. Respecting the adage that "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all," many leading Republicans are not going to take the stage - including home-state Governor John Kasich. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy are speaking today. All have been lukewarm about Trump.


2 Do the protesters make bigger headlines than the speakers?

The city is jittery, and security is tight. Local hospitals have opened up extra bed space in case of mass casualties, and battalions of police officers are swarming protest areas. There's also a very good chance that the planned protests are being over-hyped and will stay relatively peaceful.

3 How thin is the veneer of party unity?

The options for rebellion are limited, and attempts to cause trouble are usually quickly thwarted. Anti-Trump activists yesterday made a scene over rules, succeeding in spoiling Trump's hope of launching his big week with party unity. Mike Pence's speech tomorrow could excite some rank-and-file delegates, especially religious conservatives.

4 Can Trump's family members sandpaper his rough edges?

A fresh Washington Post/ABC News poll finds a notable gender gap: Trump leads among men by 8 points, while Hillary Clinton leads among women by 14 points. Trump's campaign wants to make inroads with women by softening his image. Trump's wife Melania was yesterday's headline speaker. Today his children Donald and Tiffany speak. His son Eric speaks tomorrow. And then Trump's daughter, Ivanka, will introduce him on Friday.

5 What does Donald do?

Trump originally wanted to speak every night, which is at odds with decades of precedent in both parties. He's only officially on the schedule for Friday. Trump's unpredictability could be great for ratings. Real people hate stage-managed conventions, and they love reality TV.

6 Does Trump seem plausible as a president?

The Washington Post-ABC poll found that nearly six in 10 registered voters say Trump is not qualified to serve as president. Clinton is seen as qualified to serve as president by 56 per cent of voters. The world is a tinderbox and unexpected challenges confront a president. As CNN puts it, Trump enters the convention under pressure to show more discipline, gravitas, and sobriety.

7 How big is Trump's post-convention bounce?

If Trump does not blow it and violence does not overshadow it, the next four days could be a made-for-TV infomercial about how great he would be as president. "Presidential candidates historically have seen a median increase of five percentage points in their support in preference polls among registered voters after their party's nominating convention," Gallup found in a 2012 study. It will be political malpractice if Trump's image and standing do not improve. But Clinton gets her own coronation next week in Philadelphia. She is expected to announce her running-mate on Saturday, partly to blunt any momentum Trump might get.