RNC to focus on 'Great American Story'
WASHINGTON -- Republicans will aim to recast the story of Donald Trump's presidency beginning today when they hold their national convention, featuring speakers drawn from everyday life as well as cable news and the White House while drawing a stark contrast with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Trump is looking to shift his campaign away from being a referendum on a presidency ravaged by a pandemic and economic collapse and toward a choice between vastly different visions of America's future. Reshaping the national conversation around the race has taken on greater urgency for Trump, who trails in public and private polls.
The four-day event is themed "Honoring the Great American Story," according to four Trump campaign officials involved with the planning process but not authorized to discuss it by name. The convention will feature prominently a number of well-known Trump supporters, including members of the Trump family, but also those whom the GOP say are members of the "silent majority" of Americans who have been aided by Trump's policies. Some have been "silenced" by a "cancel culture" pushed by Democrats, the campaign officials said.
Trump himself was expected to appear each night in the key 9 p.m. hour, planners said.
Where Democrats highlighted Republicans who crossed party lines to back Biden as an indictment of Trump's leadership, the GOP lineup will primarily feature figures on the conservative media circuit with the hope that they can deliver red meat for the president's loyal supporters -- though planners say they will feature some people who did not vote for Trump in 2016.
Planners say they will put forward a more "positive" convention than Democrats' roasting of Trump.
The officials outlined the campaign plans to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity to discuss the emerging schedule.
The opening night program will highlight the "Land of Promise," aiming to show how Trump helped renew the American dream. The featured speakers include South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who will deliver the coveted closing speech of the televised prime-time block.
Tanya Weinreis, a Montana coffee shop owner who received federal loans to pay her employees during the coronavirus, will also speak, as will Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was among those killed in the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Tuesday's theme is "Land of Opportunity," which is expected to cast Biden's plans as "socialist" and "radical left." Speakers will highlight Trump's actions on trade, abortion and the nation's opioid crisis. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will address Trump's foreign policy record, an unusual foray into domestic politics by the nation's top diplomat, and Trump children Eric and Tiffany Trump will also speak.
Another speaker will be Nicholas Sandmann, who as a student at a Catholic high school in Kentucky gained national attention last year for his interaction with a Native American man during demonstrations in Washington. Media commentary in the aftermath of the viral video from the interaction depicted the students as racially insensitive. Sandmann and the Native American man, Nathan Phillips, later said they were both trying to defuse tensions among conflicting groups that converged at the Lincoln Memorial.
First lady Melania Trump will deliver the marquee address of the night from a newly renovated White House Rose Garden.
Wednesday, themed "Land of Heroes," will feature a raft of conservative personalities including South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, former acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York and presidential daughter-in-law Lara Trump.
Clarence Henderson, a civil rights figure from the 1960s, is also on deck to address the "true meaning of peaceful protest," planners said, as Trump plans to highlight police officers amid a nationwide call for policing reform after the May death of George Floyd in police custody.
Vice President Mike Pence will deliver the keynote Wednesday from Baltimore's Fort McHenry, which inspired "The Star-Spangled Banner" in 1814, to highlight Trump's opposition to professional athletes who protest racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem.
Speakers on the final night, themed "Land of Greatness, will include Trump's personal attorney, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Republican congressional leaders Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California and Democrat turned Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey are to deliver remarks, as will Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White.
Trump will close out the convention during an unprecedented address from the White House South Lawn. He and Ivanka Trump, his daughter and senior adviser who is set to introduce him, will speak from an elaborate stage in front of the Executive Mansion. The move has drawn criticism from Democrats and ethics groups, who argue that Trump is violating the spirit, if not the letter, of federal law by using the White House grounds to stage his convention.
While the president is not covered by the Hatch Act, his aides cannot appear at the convention in their official capacities and staffers are extremely limited in what they may do to help pull off the convention. Planners say they are following all ethics rules.