Takeaways from the first two days of the Republican National Convention

Republicans pressed their case on Tuesday for US President Donald Trump's re-election over Democrat Joe Biden, arguing as their convention opened for a second day that Trump's leadership was vital to the country's economic and political future.

Let's take a look at the takeaways:

Unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud

In an unscheduled speech in Charlotte, North Carolina, Trump repeated his allegation on Monday that voting by mail, a long-standing feature of American elections that is expected to be far more common during the coronavirus pandemic, could lead to an increase in fraud. Independent election security experts say voter fraud is quite rare in the United States.


Warnings of a disappearing America

Conservative activist Charlie Kirk, who led off the evening speeches, called the presidential election nothing less than a decision between "preserving America as we know it and eliminating everything that we love."

The goal, as Trump advisers have said, is not necessarily persuading swing voters to like the president but to contend that voting for Democratic nominee Joe Biden is the bigger risk.


Heightened praise for Trump

Any presidential party convention is a coronation of the party's nominee. Last week's Democratic National Convention featured a full spectrum of people speaking about Biden's character, from career politicians to an elevator operator.

Some speakers' praise for Trump during the first day of the Republican convention went further.

"He started a movement to reclaim our government from the rotten cartel of insiders that have been destroying our country," Kirk said. "We may not realize it at the time. But Trump is the bodyguard of Western civilization."


A push for black voters

Kim Klacik, an African-American congressional candidate from Baltimore, is a long shot to win her race, but she scored a prime speaking slot on the Republican convention’s first night.

Klacik was part of an effort on the first night of the convention to showcase Black supporters of Trump following a Democratic convention that highlighted that party's diversity.

Trump received just 8 percent of the African-American vote in 2016. His opponent's running mate, Kamala Harris, seeks to become the first Black woman vice president. Trump has regularly criticized the Black Lives Matter movement.

"The Democratic Party does not want Black people to leave their mental plantation," Georgia state Representative Vernon Jones said. "We've been forced to be there for decades and generations. But I have news for Joe Biden. We are free. We are free people with free minds."

Football legend Herschel Walker declared Trump his "friend" and not a "racist."

Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the chamber's only Black Republican, is scheduled to speak in the closing slot for the evening.


Different Trump, different tone

Giving the most consequential speech of her brief political career, Melania Trump did her best to provide an alternative – and sometimes contrary - voice to her husband and her party.

Where other convention speakers either mentioned the coronavirus pandemic in passing or did not bring it up at all, the first lady expressed her deep sympathy for those who had suffered during the crisis. Where others have dismissed Black Lives Matter protests as the product of lawless mobs, she acknowledged the country’s troubled past with race relations.

In doing so, she tried to do what few others this week have: speak to women and other voters in battleground suburban areas where her husband is trailing in opinion polls. Other prominent women who spoke during the evening, most notably Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, followed the Republican script, bashing Democrats and the media while making little attempt to connect emotionally with voters at home.

Melania Trump pointedly refused to criticize Biden and his party and spoke as a “mother” in worrying aloud about the impact of social media on children. (That her husband is frequently called a bully on Twitter went unmentioned).

She remains a somewhat reluctant and unpolished speaker on the public stage – which showed through on Tuesday. But if undecided voters were looking for some vestige of compassion from an administration often accused of having little, her speech gave them that.


Alternate history

Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser, had a simple goal in his address on Tuesday night: Convince viewers that the American economy had sprung back to life again – even if it hasn’t.

A strong economy was the Republican president’s biggest

asset coming into the campaign, but the coronavirus pandemic sank that narrative. On Tuesday, Kudlow spoke as if the pandemic had passed and that all was well again, arguing that Trump had “successfully fought” the outbreak.

There was no mention of jobless claims climbing past the 1 million mark last week, the unemployment rate remaining above 10%, or consumer confidence hitting a six-year low. Nor was there mention of the millions who lost jobless benefits after Congress was unable to agree on an extension of relief programs, or talk of the more than 177,000 U.S. deaths from the pandemic.

Most notably, Kudlow was speaking from his Connecticut home, not from Washington or the Republican convention site in Charlotte, North Carolina – a reminder that the virus remains with us.


Controversial speakers

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking from a Jerusalem rooftop with the city lights visible in the background, praised a recent deal to normalize relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Pompeo, believed to be weighing a 2024 run for the White House, highlighted the 2018 move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, which was popular with American evangelicals - a critical part of Trump's core support.

Melania Trump's remarks and the speech by Pompeo were criticized by Democrats who questioned the propriety of using the presidential residence for political purposes and of Pompeo making a political speech during a diplomatic trip to Israel. Trump will deliver his convention speech from the White House lawn on Thursday.


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