Republican National Convention Kicks Off, Renominates Trump And Pence

Aug 24, 2020
Originally published on August 24, 2020 7:41 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

New week, new political convention. This time around, it is the Republican National Convention, and it's been a bit of a scramble to pull it together. The RNC has been relocated twice as President Trump attempted to hold as normal a convention as possible during the pandemic. Today, he visited the original host city, Charlotte, N.C., where a few hundred Republican delegates gathered to make his nomination for a second term official.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We didn't do this for any other reason other than respect for the state of North Carolina. Because we said we wanted to hold our convention in North Carolina. And I think you've got to remember that, frankly, on November 3.

KELLY: NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe is going to be covering the convention all this week.

Hey there, Ayesha.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Hello.

KELLY: You know, I want to start here. The president's campaign has been criticizing Democrats for their convention last week, saying they painted this very grim picture of America and that this week Republicans will have a more positive message. Is that what we heard from the president today?

RASCOE: Not really. It was not the uplifting, optimistic message that the campaign promised. Trump's remarks today really felt like a rally with Trump talking mostly off the cuff for nearly an hour and really going into a lot of grievances. He was complaining about mail-in voting, continuing to say a lot of things about that method of voting that is not true. And he was already critiquing the media coverage of the convention, saying it's not getting enough attention on TV. He did talk about wanting to make sure that he visited North Carolina in person, even though they couldn't have their really big gathering there. He tried to draw a distinction between him and Biden on that because Biden didn't travel to Milwaukee where the Democratic convention was supposed to be held. But this speech today is really just one of several that Trump will be making this week, and his formal acceptance speech will be on Thursday, and that will likely be much more scripted.

KELLY: How is he talking about the coronavirus, about the pandemic? Because as we've already said, that has overshadowed this convention. It overshadowed the Democrats last week, the whole campaign. What's he having to say about that?

RASCOE: He's arguing that much of the country is doing well and the economy is rapidly recovering. There are real questions about how fast the economy will improve. And currently, there are still millions out of work and struggling right now. But Trump repeated some of his accusations today that there are Democratic lawmakers who are intentionally holding back their economy. Here's more of what he had to say.

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TRUMP: On November 4 - you know, these Democrat governors, they love shutdown until after the election's over because they want to make our numbers look as bad as possible.

RASCOE: There's no evidence for that, but Trump has continued to personalize the coronavirus response and make it all about what he perceives as others doing to him. He's also seized on a comment from Joe Biden that he would - that Biden would shut down the economy if health officials advised him to do so. Ultimately, though, Trump is defending his administration's handling of the coronavirus and he says he plans to talk more about that in-depth on Thursday.

KELLY: Speaking of talking about things more in-depth, are we likely to hear more this week about his plans, his proposals, what his second term agenda would be?

RASCOE: The campaign did put out a list of goals for the second term, including the goal of creating 10 million jobs in 10 months. There will be a lot of talk about law and order, cracking down on crime, people coming into the country illegally. But in many ways, the argument boils down to the campaign's argument that Trump helped build a great economy before the coronavirus and he'll do it again.

KELLY: On quick preview, Ayesha, before I let you go, what are we going to see tonight, first big night of the convention?

RASCOE: More traditional speeches than we saw with Democrats. Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley is supposed to speak, as well as Donald Trump Jr. and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott.

KELLY: All right. NPR's Ayesha Rascoe, thank you.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.