• Sun. Jan 24th, 2021

RNC 2020: Speakers and schedule for Trump’s Republican Party convention


Trump, Pence, family at 2016 convention Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Trump accepts the Republican nomination alongside his wife and son in 2016

The Republican National Convention starts on Monday and we now have a better idea of what will be happening.

But let’s back up first.

There’s an obvious question…

What IS the Republican National Convention?

OK, good question.

Party conventions take place once every four years – they are the ceremonial crowning of the party’s presidential candidate as they prepare for the final phase of campaigning.

Last time around, we saw the Trump family take centre stage to a backdrop of fireworks and a sea of red, white and blue balloons.

It’s also where party officials wrap up other less-glamorous business, like unveiling the political platform and adopting rules.

As the sitting president, Mr Trump is the de facto nominee, but it’s not official until the party anoints him at the convention.

This year, that will happen at the end of four days of convention events this week, ending on Thursday with the president’s big speech.

How will the Republican National Convention work this year?

Even Republicans have been trying to figure this out.

The conventions of years past have been glitzy affairs, bringing together thousands of delegates, party leaders, activists and celebrities for receptions, speeches and general hyping up of the presidential candidate.

But the pandemic has upended all that.

Unlike its Democratic counterpart, the Republican Convention still plans on hosting some in-person business.

But people will need to wear masks and social distance. Those attending will also be given a self-swab Covid-19 test before travelling and entering their hotels.

Image copyright Getty Images

OK, so where will Trump be?

He will accept the nomination in a “real speech on Thursday”, live from the White House.

This hasn’t been entirely well-received – with critics arguing using federal property for a campaign speech is unethical.

Who’s speaking on Monday?

Members of the Trump family are scheduled to speak each night, and Mr Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr, will kick things off on Monday.

Though he does not hold an official government position, Mr Trump Jr has served as a fervent defender of his father on social media and during his regular appearances on Fox News.

Speeches from South Carolinians Senator Tim Scott – the sole black Republican in the upper chamber – and Nikki Haley, former UN ambassador, are also on the agenda.

Mr Scott has spearheaded Republican police reform efforts in the Senate and has critiqued Mr Trump on racial issues before, recently calling on him to remove a retweeted video of a supporter shouting “white power”.

Mrs Haley, who resigned from her post in October 2018, is seen as a potential front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. She was South Carolina’s first minority and female governor and during her UN tenure, was an outspoken critic of Russia, Syria and North Korea.

We’ll also hear from Mark and Patricia McCloskey – the St Louis couple who made headlines for being filmed pointing guns at racial justice protesters who marched past their mansion.

The McCloskeys were charged over the incident (they maintain they felt threatened), but the state attorney general has said he would dismiss the case. Mr Trump has also defended their actions and the pair have previously appeared at a virtual Trump campaign event.

Andrew Pollack, whose daughter was killed in the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, will also speak. Mr Pollack has called for supporting law enforcement and protecting gun rights, telling Fox News ahead of the convention that the Second Amendment allows people to defend their loved ones.

Who are the other speakers this year?

The headliners, apart from Mr Trump himself, will be First Lady Melania Trump on Tuesday, followed by Vice-President Mike Pence on Wednesday.

Tuesday

  • First Lady Melania Trump
  • Eric Trump
  • Tiffany Trump
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
  • Senator Rand Paul
  • Nicholas Sandmann, who featured in a viral video last year in front of the Lincoln Memorial in the nation’s capital

Wednesday

  • Vice-President Mike Pence and wife Karen
  • Eric Trump’s wife Lara
  • White House adviser Kellyanne Conway

Thursday

  • President Trump
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
  • Ivanka Trump
  • Alice Johnson, a criminal justice reform advocate whose life sentence was commuted by the president after a campaign led by Kim Kardashian
  • Parents of Kayla Mueller, an American aid worker who was taken hostage and killed in Syria

Mr Pence will accept his running mate role from Fort McHenry in Baltimore. It’s a place heavy with historical significance, because it is where US soldiers withstood the might of the British in 1814, inspiring Francis Scott Key to write the poem that became the national anthem.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Francis Scott Key saw the flag at the fort and wrote the words that later became the national anthem

Like its Democratic counterpart, the Republican programme will also be a mix of pre-recorded and live speeches, based in Washington DC.

Each day will follow themes of America as the land of promise, opportunity, heroes and – in a nod to Trump’s slogan – greatness.

What time is the Republican National Convention?

The convention is expected to last 2.5 hours each night, Monday to Thursday, from 2030 EST (0130 BST) to 2200 EST (0300 BST).

You can follow the latest news, including live pages on the two biggest nights Wednesday and Thursday, at bbc.com/news

And you can watch on the Republican National Convention website.

Three things to watch out for

Few incumbent presidents of the modern era have faced a challenge as great as the one before Donald Trump in the final months of their re-election campaign. He has consistently trailed Joe Biden in the polls by a modest but significant margin for months. The Republican Convention is one of his last, best opportunities to turn the tide.

The coronavirus pandemic has made a traditional convention format impractical, but it appears the Republicans will try to come close to replicating the feel of one. Unlike the Democrats, they will have audiences for many of their speeches, including Donald Trump’s Thursday night address, which will be held from the South Lawn of the White House.

That speech will be a good guide for how the Republicans hope to conduct their campaign over the final months. Will he focus on tearing down Joe Biden or on accomplishments from early in his presidency? Or will he try to convince the public that the worst days of the pandemic are over?

The Democrats during their convention turned to voices from “ordinary” Americans – immigrants, workers and minorities – who said they had been harmed by the president’s policies. The Republicans will counter with ones who will recount how they’ve been helped – or who are worried about what the Democrats would do in power. Will they make a compelling case?

The rest of the week will be filled with Republican officeholders of various levels. Some, including Vice-President Mike Pence, will be vying for position to lead the party once Trump leaves office – either next year or in 2024.

Four years ago, Trump defied conventional practices and wisdom to win the presidency. He’s remade the Republican Party in his image, with an emphasis on conservative populism and sometimes brash rhetoric. That new party, his party, will be on full display this week

If the battle to be Trump’s political heirs is one potential theme of the convention, another will be the dynamic among his actual heirs. The president’s wife, along with three of his children – Eric, Don Jr and Tiffany – are all scheduled set to speak.

The Trump family has had more than its share of drama – most recently with secret recordings of sister Maryanne Barry disparaging the president. Will this week be more like the Brady Bunch or King Lear?

How does the voting work?

There’s a roll call when delegates from states and territories across the US say which candidate they are backing. This time, that’s the president.

State delegates vote in line with the results of their state primary results – and in the case of Republicans, they are bound to do so. There are also unpledged delegates who can vote freely – these are two national committee members and the party chairperson from each state.

With Trump as the incumbent, some states opted out of hosting primary elections this year and automatically gave their delegates to him.

If you need a refresher on all things primary and caucus, check out our explainer here.

What happens next?

Now we watch as campaigning heats up before the general election on 3 November.

Be sure to set a reminder for the debates too, where we’ll see Biden and Trump battle to win over voters. The first presidential debate is scheduled for 29 September with two more in October.