U.S. President Donald Trump went into battle for a second term Monday with his nomination at a Republican convention where he will draw on all his showman’s instincts to try and change the narrative in an election he is currently set to lose.
There was no surprise in the party delegates’ landslide vote to nominate Trump, following a series of speeches lavishly praising the president at the convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
But Trump, the reality TV veteran and celebrity property developer, injected some of his personal brand of drama by showing up at the event, which has been drastically scaled back due to COVID-19 precautions.
Incumbents usually keep away from their party conventions until the finale when they deliver their acceptance speech, but Trump’s instinct is to stay in the limelight.
Facing anger over his handling of the crisis, he badly trails his Democratic opponent Joe Biden in the polls.
Trump is also weighed down by the growing turmoil in his inner circle, with former chief strategist Steve Bannon arrested last week on fraud charges and a current top advisor, Kellyanne Conway, announcing late Sunday that she was stepping down to spend time with her family.
The Republican insists, however, that he can replicate his surprise 2016 win — and hopes the convention will put the wind in his sails.
“This week we will take our case to the American people,” Vice President Mike Pence told delegates ahead of Trump’s arrival, promising to “make America great again — again.”
Trump and his family, which has had an unusual amount of influence and access at the White House during his tumultuous first term, will be omnipresent through the convention’s four days.
There’ll be First Lady Melania Trump’s speech in the Rose Garden on Tuesday and addresses by the president’s children, including right-wing firebrand son Don Jr, daughter-advisor Ivanka and daughter-in-law Lara Trump.
Trump’s acceptance speech is set for Thursday at the White House itself — a show of power trampling over the custom of separating political campaigns from the office of president.
In another move stretching etiquette, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will make a speech on his behalf while conducting an official trip to Israel.
Democrats staged a well-honed production at their all-online convention last week, culminating with Biden’s emotional pledge to be an “ally of the light” after the “darkness” of Trump.
The Republican president, however, has years of his experience in television and has reportedly brought in two of the producers on his old reality TV show “The Apprentice” to help out.
– God, jobs and guns –
For all his bullishness, Trump faces an uphill struggle against Biden, who is tapping into unhappiness with the president’s handling of the pandemic, unrest over racial inequality and fear of longterm economic damage from the coronavirus shutdown.
Beyond bread and butter issues, Trump’s abrasive style, his habit of insulting people in public, his demonization of journalists, and almost total inability to talk to Democratic leaders has left the country divided and exhausted.
In a potential new flashpoint, protests erupted in the critical electoral state of Wisconsin after police there shot a black man in the back. While details were still unclear, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers compared the incident to other incidents where outrage has erupted over excessive use of force.
Trump is attempting to reverse the Democrats’ narrative that he is to blame for the deep gloom in the country, saying that their convention “spent four straight days attacking America as racist and a horrible country that must be redeemed.”
On Sunday, he told Fox News his convention would be “uplifting and positive.”
Trump’s number one message is that the economy, reeling from the shock of the nationwide shutdown earlier this year, will come back soon — “the best economy ever,” as he told Fox News on Sunday.
But the sunny tone is likely to get heavy competition from Trump’s other favorite themes — his often outlandish claims that Democrats want to take away Americans’ firearms, unleash anarchy in the streets, encourage mass illegal immigration, and even repress religious freedom.
Earlier this month, Trump told a crowd that Biden will “hurt the Bible, hurt God” — a statement that quickly drew outrage and ridicule.
“I have to fight back,” he told Fox News, indicating he’d not change his style. “If I don’t fight back strong, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now.”