President Donald Trump will ask Americans to return him to office in a speech Thursday closing the Republican convention, arguing that voters can’t trust Joe Biden or the Democratic Party to navigate the coronavirus pandemic or salve the nation’s racial divisions.
Trump will deliver his address accepting the GOP nomination for president from the South Lawn of the White House, less than 24 hours after catastrophic Hurricane Laura struck Louisiana. Four people were killed when trees fell on their homes, Governor John Bel Edwards said.
The president said earlier Thursday that he was prepared to cancel his speech but that “we got a little bit lucky” with the storm because “it passed quickly.”
His speech will cap a four-day gathering that sought to bolster — or in some cases, re-make — his image as a promise-keeper defending traditional American values against Biden and Democrats. Trump’s opponents have been portrayed as socialists and radicals intent on irreparably damaging the very nature of the U.S.
Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said Trump will deliver a “tough speech because Americans have tough choices in front of them.” The campaign believes criticisms of Biden’s record and his proposals haven’t received enough attention, and so Trump will deliver the message himself, Murtaugh told reporters on a call Wednesday.
Ivanka Trump is scheduled to introduce her father and plans to call him “the people’s president,” according to an except of her prepared remarks.
“Since the day he took the oath of office, I’ve watched my father take on the failed policies of the past and do what no other leader has done before,” she plans to say.
Democrats spent their convention last week calling Trump an unfit leader who would threaten democracy if given another four years in office.
“At no time before have voters faced a clearer choice between two parties, two visions, two philosophies, or two agendas,” Trump is expected to say, according to excerpts obtained by Bloomberg News. “At the Democrat convention, you barely heard a word about their agenda. But that’s not because they don’t have one. It’s because their agenda is the most extreme set of proposals ever put forward by a major party nominee.”
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Trump is expected to defend his response to the pandemic that has cost more than 180,000 U.S. lives and threatens his re-election. About 62% of voters believe the struggle against the coronavirus is “going badly,” according to a CBS News poll released Sunday, while just 27% of Americans say things are going well overall.
While Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have emphasized Trump’s limits on travel from China and efforts to rapidly build ventilators and develop vaccines and therapies, Democrats say Trump cost American lives by initially dismissing the threat of the virus and never developing a comprehensive national response.
Trump is also expected to address protests and riots that have erupted across the country since the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May, Murtaugh said. The latest epicenter is in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where police shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, on Sunday.
Two people were shot and killed in the Kenosha protests on Tuesday by a White Illinois teenager who has expressed support for Trump on social media. Trump will speak about events in Kenosha, Murtaugh said.
Trump and Republicans at this week’s convention have nodded at the right to protest racial injustice, and many Black speakers — almost all men — have praised the president and asserted that he is not racist. But more emphasis has been placed on support for police and what Trump has repeatedly called the need for “law and order” on U.S. streets.
That theme will continue on Thursday night, with scheduled speakers including Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York, which has endorsed Trump, and Ann Dorn, the widow of retired St. Louis police captain David Dorn, who was killed during protests in June.
Trump is also expected to herald an economic recovery from the pandemic, though the country continues to suffer about 1,000 deaths each day from the virus and andinitial jobless claims for the week ended Aug. 22 topped 1 million again on Thursday. About 14.5 million Americans are still claiming unemployment benefits.
While Trump’s top concern is persuading Americans that the pandemic has been better managed and more contained than they think, his advisers have indicated he’ll also look to outline a second-term agenda on Thursday. The president has struggled repeatedly in recent interviews to articulate any policy goals or ambitions if he’s re-elected, beyond further tax cuts.
On Sunday, his campaign released a 50-point “2nd Term Agenda.”
The theme of Thursday night’s program is “land of greatness,” and Trump will describe his “uplifting and optimistic view of the United States, its history and its founding and our values” compared with “doom and gloom” from Democrats, Murtaugh told reporters.
“The Republican Party goes forward united, determined, and ready to welcome millions of Democrats, Independents, and anyone who believes in the Greatness of America and the righteous heart of the American people,” Trump will say, according to excerpts. “This towering American spirit has prevailed over every challenge, and lifted us to the summit of human endeavor.”
Other speakers on Wednesday include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Trump friend and adviser; Housing Secretary Ben Carson, the only Black member of Trump’s cabinet; Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate; House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy; and Representative Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, a former Democrat who switched parties last year after voting against Trump’s impeachment.
Other planned speakers include Alice Johnson, a Black woman whom Trump granted clemency at the request of Kim Kardashian; Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White; Carl and Marsha Mueller, parents of a U.S. aid worker killed by Islamic State; and evangelical leader Franklin Graham.
— With assistance by Jordan Fabian, and Emma Kinery
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