US President Donald Trump greets supporters on the tarmac as Senior Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump (R) looks on, at Asheville Regional Airport in Fletcher, North Carolina, on August 24, 2020 (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)
President Donald Trump opened his bid for a second term after securing the Republican nomination Monday in typically combative, dark fashion with a claim that Democrats are working to “steal” the election that polls currently show him losing.
Minutes after the party completed the formal nomination vote confirming Trump as the candidate on November 3, he appeared on stage at the convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, to deliver a rambling speech that lasted close to an hour.
From the opening words, he said Republicans should be on alert for what he claimed was a Democratic plan to rig the contest through increased use of mail-in voting — a measure that Democrats are pushing so that people don’t have to risk catching COVID-19 in crowded polling stations.
“They are trying to steal the election,” he told party delegates. “The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election.”
Trump is trying to change the narrative in an campaign that polls show him losing badly to Democratic candidate Joe Biden, as Americans turn on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic chaos.
A reality TV veteran and celebrity property developer, he tried to inject some drama by showing up in person at the event in Charlotte, 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.
“Until a few minutes ago, nobody knew I was coming,” he told the Republican delegates, although in reality the so-called surprise had been telegraphed well in advance.
– Family affair –
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 is 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 reportedly brought in two of the producers on his old reality TV show “The Apprentice” to help jazz up his own convention.
– God, jobs and guns –
Biden 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 others where outrage has erupted over excessive use of force.
Now, Trump is attempting to claim the high ground, telling Fox News on Sunday that 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, with the recovery forming what he called “a super-V” shape.
But the sunny tone is already getting overshadowed by his claims that Democrats want to take away Americans’ firearms, unleash anarchy in the streets, encourage mass illegal immigration, and even repress religious freedom.
“They want no guns. They want no oil and gas. They want no God,” he told the crowd in Charlotte.