While the in-person Democratic National Convention was scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic, Republicans began their convention with an in-person roll call in Charlotte, North Carolina, and then move to remote speeches from largely an auditorium in Washington, DC – but also from the White House, in an unprecedented move.
The start to the Republican convention comes as the first polls since the DNC last week show Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has gained popularity, but has not widened his lead over Trump.
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence appeared at the roll call in North Carolina on Monday to thank delegates.
Notable speakers on Monday night include some of Trump’s Republican allies in Congress (Sen. Tim Scott, House GOP Whip Steve Scalise, Rep. Matt Gaetz and Rep. Jim Jordan), former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, and the President’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.
The night will also feature speeches from private figures who have lent their voices to supporting the Trump administration or exhibited values the President has commended, including the St. Louis couple who were filmed brandishing guns at a group of protesters walking along the neighborhood’s private street.
Here’s what to watch on Monday:
It starts in Charlotte
After a series of convention venue changes – from North Carolina to Florida and back to North Carolina, again – the formal convention will kick off in Charlotte for one in-person event before moving the rest of the production to the nation’s capital.
The formal presidential nomination process began in Charlotte on Monday morning, attended by six delegates from each state and territory, amounting to a total of 336 delegates, according to the RNC. RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel presided over the nomination process, which concluded with Trump being formally nominated as party’s nominee for President.
Following the nomination, prime-time speeches are expected to be delivered from the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium – a venue within walking distance of the White House and across the street from the Trump International Hotel.
Appearances by Trump and Pence
Trump and Pence made an appearance during the convention roll call in Charlotte on Monday, delivering remarks to delegates.
Trump will spend most of Monday morning and afternoon in North Carolina, according to his public schedule. He’s scheduled to make multiple stops in the state and deliver a speech on the US Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program.
The President is also expected to make appearances on each night of the convention before delivering his nomination acceptance speech Thursday evening from the White House.
A second term agenda
The President has struggled to outline his goals for a second term in the Oval Office, but on the eve of the convention, the Trump campaign announced a specific set of second term priorities, which convention speakers will likely touch on during Monday’s events and through Thursday’s schedule.
The Republican National Committee also confirmed on Sunday that it would not release a new platform during the 2020 convention – and in lieu of one, the party will support Trump’s agenda.
Many of the goals in the list released on Sunday signaled a continuation of the President’s priorities, such as lowering the cost of drugs, cutting taxes, decreasing unlawful immigration into the US, developing a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year and creating new jobs.
But some priorities established a renewed level of importance to issues the President hasn’t talked about as frequently, including ending cashless bail, establishing congressional term limits, prosecuting drive-by shootings as acts of domestic terrorism and establishing a permanent manned presence on the moon.
The list of policy goals also places a specific target on China – devoting a section priorities to the issue, which called for incentivizing the US to bring jobs back from China, prohibiting federal contracts to “companies who outsource to China,” and holding “China fully accountable for allowing the virus to spread around the world.”
Republicans are expected to counter the message Democrats set out to paint last week at the Democratic National Convention – that through unity and with the help of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, America can overcome a season of darkness created by Trump.
The Republican convention’s vision of Trump’s America, by contrast, will be focused on optimism and promise.
“President Trump’s boundless optimism and certainty in America’s greatness is reflected in his second-term goals and stands in stark contrast to the gloomy vision of America projected by Joe Biden and Democrats,” the Trump campaign said in a statement.
Democrats, meanwhile, plan to counterprogram the Republican convention by highlighting Trump’s “chaotic” presidency in new television and digital ads, as well as briefings by prominent leaders in the Democratic Party.
Shadows over the convention
The impact of coronavirus on the country and other recent, unflattering stories will likely cast a shadow on the convention kickoff.
By the time Republicans hold their roll call on Monday, more than 176,000 people in the US will have died from the pandemic that began to sweep the nation earlier this year and has continued on into the summer.
A recent CNN Poll conducted by SSRS found that nearly 7-in-10 Americans said the US response to the coronavirus outbreak made them feel embarrassed. The same poll marked Trump’s handling of the outbreak at a new high, 58%.
But Trump and Republicans have maintained that the US has been successful in its pandemic efforts. And on Sunday, a day before the start of the convention, Trump held a press conference to tout the US Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization for treatment of convalescent plasma for coronavirus patients. That announcement came days after the he accused “deep state” elements in the agency of stalling approvals to hurt his campaign.
The start of the convention also follows a series of major news stories unflattering for Trump.
Last week, Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, was among a group charged with defrauding donors who gave to a fundraising campaign purported to be for Trump’s border wall.
On Saturday, The Washington Post released new audio and transcripts of Maryanne Trump Barry bitterly criticizing her brother, the President.
And on Sunday, one of the President’s longest serving advisers, Kellyanne Conway, announced she would be leaving the White House, citing a need to focus on her family. Conway is scheduled to speak at the convention on Wednesday.
Besides lawmakers, Monday’s program includes a list of speakers who appear to have credited the Trump administration and Republicans for policy successes or who have been successful examples of the President’s policies in action.
The lineup will include the father of a student killed in the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, a GOP congressional candidate who starred in a viral video about “the reality for Black people” in Baltimore and a coffee shop owner who was the first to qualify for a Paycheck Protection Program loan in Montana.
There will also be remarks by Patricia and Mark McCloskey, the couple who drew national attention this summer after they were filmed brandishing guns at a group of protesters who were walking along the neighborhood’s private street, en route to the St. Louis mayor’s residence to advocate for policing reform.
In one viral video of the encounter, Patricia held a handgun and Mark held a long gun near an entrance to their mansion, watching as protesters yelled at them and walked past their home. In another contentious scene captured by cameras, Patricia was filmed closer to the protesters, waving the handgun at them.
The Missouri couple was charged in July with unlawful use of a weapon, a class E felony.
But Mark McCloskey has maintained that he was scared for his life and brandishing a weapon to protect his home and wife, and the White House has defended the couple’s actions on multiple occasions.
CNN’s Jeremy Diamond, Kaitlan Collins and Stephen Collinson contributed to this report.