President Donald Trump gave a nomination speech like no other – in length, in setting, in contravention of public health guidance and with raucous protests just yards away. But how was it received by voters?
Using the White House grounds to make a campaign speech had already got the president into trouble.
Then the sight of hundreds of people in his audience, seated close together on the South Lawn, raised questions about the risks of coronavirus transmission.
In a 70-minute speech, he defended his handling of the pandemic and vowed to lead the nation out of the economic slump.
But afterwards, as fireworks exploded over the National Mall, his Democratic opponents Joe Biden and Kamala Harris accused him of failing to protect the country.
We asked Republican voters and others for their immediate reactions.
“It met all my criteria I wanted in an acceptance speech. The base is going to feel really good about it – to go vote and to take five people to the polls with them. It did what it was supposed to do. [in terms of swaying voters] It’s up to the individual. Everybody has to do their own research.”
Cat Lewis, a 56-year-old writer from Apex, North Carolina
“The speech was for the Republican base that knows they’re gonna be voting for him. He hit what I and I’m sure others believe are key points. He hit those points that I think many people want to hear his thoughts and opinions on, then looped back to his accomplishments. It’s very important for me, as a Hispanic American [from Venezuela], to hear him talk about the differences between right and left.”
Gabriel Montalvo, 21-year-old Hispanic Republican voter from Queens, New York
“I really like the fact that he spoke about Alice Johnson [a woman who spent 22 years in prison and had her sentence commuted by Trump] regarding the justice reform that’s affecting a lot of Americans. And he said America is the torch that lights the rest of the world I thought that was pretty accurate. Biden may have a plan but nobody really knows what that’s going to be – what that entails. [Trump] comes across as more organised about what needs to happen.”
Deanna Lusk, a 37-year-old legal assistant in Derby, Kansas
“I agree this speech was for the base. My bar for his ability to stick with the script is very low, so he did well. I have a lot of problems with the lies. It was very repetitive and rambling. Here is the Republican Party, here are our beliefs and nobody else is right… I wanted to hear more, as a young voter, about being a united country, rather than right or left. There was not as much inclusivity about young people and the youth vote as I would have liked to hear.”
Miriam Weinraub, 19, college student and first-time voter from Englewood, Colorado
“A lot of what was said was not the whole truth, and a lot of fear-mongering. It created a narrative. The speech was powerful. The end of the speech was brilliant. But I have not been swayed by it. If I had to vote today, I would vote for Joe Biden only because I am really tired of hearing the president say things that are not the truth or not the whole truth. I would have to vote for anyone who tells the truth.”
Phillip Robinson, 50, from downtown Dallas, Texas
Brooke voted for Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson in 2016 but thinks she will switch to Trump this time. “Cancel culture… that’s what drew me to Trump, It doesn’t even feel like America anymore, it feels like we have to walk on egg shells. I wasn’t blown away [by his speech], but I didn’t see any yellow or red flags. I feel affirmed in my vote.”
Brooke Riske is a 34-year-old mother and an independent voter from Roanoke, Virginia
A ponderous speech, poorly delivered
In a ponderous, hour-long speech more akin to a State of the Union address than a nomination acceptance, Donald Trump alternated between ticking through his record as president and circling around, like a prize fighter, to launch strikes on his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden.
It was a blunderbuss of attacks, of varying levels of validity, in the hope that some will draw blood – on trade, immigration, education, energy and foreign policy. But most of all, Mr Trump sought to paint Mr Biden as in league with the protesters on the streets and the more left-wing members of the Democratic party.
The setting of the speech was majestic – on the grounds of the White House and in view of the Washington monument.
The delivery from a president who thrives more on rousing rallies than rhetorical set-pieces, however, frequently landed with a thud.
A former Trump campaign activist
Hurricanes, wildfires, a pandemic and urban riots. You might think Americans were having a bad week. Donald Trump has a different view. Tonight, Trump was the first president since FDR to accept his party’s nomination from the White House. While not unprecedented, it’s certainly a new optic for the American voters. But, then again, in 2020, what isn’t?
Trump used his prime time spot to illustrate his strengths, capitalise on good economic news, and spoke with grave sincerity about the damage that Covid-19 has wrought upon our nation. He eloquently contrasted his record of achievement in one term with Biden’s 47 years in Washington, and he did it effectively. But it is this author’s opinion that the president was overshadowed by the incredibly emotional prior speeches by the widow of slain Captain David Dorn, the parents of Islamic State hostage Kayla Mueller and the face of Trump’s “First Step Act,” pardoned prisoner Alice Marie Johnson.
As Trump reinforced his message tonight, he stood little chance of eclipsing the night that unfurled before him. Overall, the night was an emphatic and emotional win, not just for Trump, but for all Americans. A win tonight for Trump, but above all: a win for the Republican ticket nationwide. The year 2020 is a year of chaos. Well, year 2020, meet the man who was born to lead in this environment; and that man is not Joe Biden. That’s what we learned tonight.
Adam Gingrich, now a political media consultant