WASHINGTON — The Republican National Convention kicks off Monday with President Donald Trump’s political advisers asserting that amid a pandemic and widespread unemployment, he and his supporters will present an “upbeat” vision for the country that contrasts with the tone of last week’s Democratic presidential nominating convention.
While Democrats held an all-virtual convention last week in response to the coronavirus, Republicans, at Trump’s urging, are holding in-person events starting with Monday’s roll call of delegates that will feature 336 delegates — out of the 2,550 that normally attend — from across the country declaring their support for Trump’s reelection bid from inside a Charlotte, North Carolina, arena.
New York State’s pared-down delegation includes State GOP chairman Nick Langworthy, Hempstead Town Councilman Bruce Blakeman, Manhattan GOP chairwoman Andrea Catsimatidis, former New York City comptroller candidate John Burnett, Onondaga County GOP chairman Tom Dadey and Christopher Koetzle, the town supervisor of Glenville in upstate New York.
Blakeman, who had been under consideration by the Trump administration for a special envoy post that ultimately went to another last year, arrived in Charlotte on Sunday afternoon and said he has been tested three times for COVID-19 over a 10-day period to ensure he could attend the convention.
“You just have to be smart, follow the rules, wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands and Purell a lot. That's what I'm doing,” said Blakeman, who has attended five other GOP conventions.
Langworthy, in a statement said: “On Monday, Republicans will have an opportunity to present our vision for America. It is a vision that starts with the core belief that America is the greatest country in the world because of our foundational freedoms and inalienable rights. That America is a country in which every man and woman has the opportunity to pursue one’s destiny.”
Trump is entering the convention trailing Biden by an average of 7.6 percentage, according to an analysis of recent polls conducted by the poll tracking website Real Clear Politics. The polling gap has narrowed over the past month when polls showed Biden ahead by double digit numbers between 10 and 15 percentage points, but the president’s overall approval rating continues to take a hit from his handling of the country's COVID-19 crisis, with polls consistently showing that a majority of Americans disapprove of his response.
A key question among political strategists is how Republicans will use the convention to narrow that polling gap after Democrats spent four days looking to widen Biden’s base by featuring speakers from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and prominent Republican supporters, said Michael Dawidziak, a Bohemia-based political consultant who consulted on GOP conventions in 1988, 1992 and 1996.
“Most candidates when they get the nomination of their party, whether they're Democrat or Republican," move to the middle once they become their party's nominee, said Dawidziak. “Donald Trump didn’t do that four years ago, and he hasn't done it yet. He has spent four years talking to his base. So the question is, is he going to broaden that message to be more palatable to independents and moderate swing voters?”
Trump allies on Sunday said the GOP convention will focus on highlighting the stories of Americans aided by Trump’s policies, after Democrats spent four nights at their convention characterizing him as an unfit and ill-prepared leader.
Republican National Convention chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” said the party’s push to retain some level of the in-person feel of past conventions underscores Trump’s focus on fully reopening the economy in a “realistic way.”
“We tested everybody before they came to Charlotte, we tested everybody on-site,” McDaniel said.“ We are doing things that allow people to live their lives, have a convention and do it in a healthy and safe way, which most Americans are doing.”
Democrats have noted that states across the country continue to report delays in processing COVID-19 tests amid supply shortages, and rapid tests such as those available to the president and White House staff are not yet widely available.
Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller, who also worked on Trump’s insurgent 2016 campaign, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that Republicans were going to hold an “optimistic and upbeat convention.”
“We're going to talk about the American story, about all the accomplishments that we've had over the last four years with President Trump and what the president's second-term vision is going to look like,” Miller said.
Monday night's lineup
The programming, which will run from 8:30 to 11p.m., will focus on the theme “Land of Promise,” and will feature speeches from some of Trump’s staunchest supporters.
- Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the sole Black Republican in the Senate, will deliver the night’s closing address.
- The president’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr.
- Former Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley
- Republican National Convention Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel
- Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida
- Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio
- Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana.