While speakers and heavily produced videos touted President Donald Trump’s accomplishments and stoked fears about what a Biden presidency would look like, it was a message tailored mostly to committed Republicans. Some speakers, like a teacher who gave a scathing attack on unions in the first 10 minutes of the night, could even turn off swing voters in heavily unionized states like Michigan.
Republicans again plan on using a lineup of Trump family members, everyday Americans and politicians to make the pitch for another four years for the president on Night 2 of their convention.
Trump entered the week trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in every public poll, including in many of the battleground states, and more than half of Americans say they disapproved of his job performance as president. To reverse those numbers, he needs to appeal to voters outside his base and convince people who reluctantly voted for him in 2016 to come out and do so again in 2020.
So what is Trump’s message to voters who aren’t kept up at night by fears of crime, immigrants and socialism? That will be one of the key messages to watch for Tuesday:
1. A second term agenda?
One way to reach swing voters would be with a message on what another four years of Trump looks like.
Republicans repeatedly painted the picture Monday of a dark, lawless future under a Biden presidency, with Donald Trump Jr. saying the election “is shaping up to be church, work, and school vs. rioting, looting and vandalism.”
But there was little talk of what another four years of Trump would mean. Unlike in 2016, when Trump offered tangible goals, such as building a border wall that Mexico would pay for and repealing Obamacare, he’s struggled in recent interviews to lay out a clear second term agenda.
Trump’s campaign issued a 50-bullet point statement Monday listing what his second term agenda would include, citing goals like bringing back 10 million jobs in 10 months along with more vague promises like a “return to normal” in 2021 — but offering little in the way of policy detail. The party itself has drawn scrutiny for its decision not to adopt a formal policy platform.
It’s unclear how much of that agenda will be conveyed Tuesday night.
Republicans might not have former presidents and presidential candidates scheduled to speak like the Democrats did, but they do have a Maine lobsterman and a string of culture war icons making their case on Night Two.
Among those the campaign will feature are teenager Nicholas Sandmann, the “Make America Great Again” cap-wearing teenager who became a Trumpworld icon following an encounter he had with a Native American activist on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Also speaking will be Mary Ann Mendoza, an advocate for “Angel Moms” fighting to tighten immigration laws, and the anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson, who formerly worked at Planned Parenthood.
And Maine lobsterman Jason Joyce, who has been an outspoken advocate for his industry, is expected to speak in favor of Trump’s trade and fisheries policies, according to The Bangor Daily News. Trump has seized on the lobster industry in recent months as a victim of unfair trade practices by China and Europe.
3. The big blurring of the lines
The White House will be front and center as a campaign venue Tuesday night, with first lady Melania Trump expected to give her remarks from the recently renovated Rose Garden in front of an audience of about 50 people, an administration official said.
It is unprecedented in modern politics for the White House to be used as the site of an explicitly political event, with past presidents maintaining some boundaries between the office of the presidency and their re-election bids. Trump taped two videos from the White House for Monday night’s programming and will make his acceptance speech from there Thursday.
There will be a further blurring of the lines Tuesday between where the official business of the U.S. government ends and the campaign begins when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gives his address from Jerusalem, where he is currently on official business.
It’s a highly unusual move that’s drawn heavy criticism from fellow diplomats. While the Hatch Act prohibits executive branch employees from engaging in political activity while on duty, a senior administration official said Pompeo would address the convention in his personal capacity and that no State Department staffers or resources would be used in connection with the appearance.
4. A family affair
Trump’s family will play a significant role Tuesday night, with his wife and children Eric and Tiffany Trump all speaking.
An administration official described the first lady’s expected comments as “positive and uplifting,” discussing her husband’s accomplishments and making the case why he deserves another four years in office.
All of Trump’s adult children will be addressing the convention throughout the four days — Donald Trump Jr. spoke Monday, and Ivanka Trump will introduce her father Thursday. Even his daughter-in-law Lara Trump and his eldest son’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, made the program.
Trump’s family also has been its own source of controversy heading into this week: In an audio recording made by the president’s niece, Mary Trump, his sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, called the president a liar with no principles, and said he had someone else take his college entrance exams on his behalf.