• Fri. Nov 27th, 2020

The World Outside

Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Giovanni Russonello, typically the morning newsletter writer, covering the evening shift during the conventions.

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Credit…Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times

This morning, my colleagues Nick Corasaniti and Lisa Lerer wrote to you about the complicated relationship between the Republican National Convention’s portrayal of President Trump’s record and the realities of what he has actually done.

But his record isn’t the only thing cluttering things up as he seeks to boost his campaign ahead of the climactic final two months.

There is also what’s going on right around him every day.

Outside the convention hall in Charlotte, N.C., the past week has been an eventful one. Days before the convention began, one of the president’s closest former advisers, Stephen K. Bannon, was arrested on fraud charges tied to an organization that claims to be providing funds for the president’s wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Notably, Mr. Bannon’s name hasn’t come up at the convention.

The coronavirus pandemic, of course, rages on, and the beginning of the school year is weighing on many Americans’ minds. Last night, Vice President Mike Pence boasted that “we are opening up America’s schools,” but polling shows that a wide majority of the country feels that returning to in-person classes would be unsafe. Most major cities have said they will begin the fall semester online only.

On Monday, as Mr. Trump was accepting his party’s renomination, a judge in Florida sided with the state’s teachers’ union against an order from Gov. Ron DeSantis requiring schools to reopen. By denying school boards the right to determine whether it was safe to return, the judge wrote, the order “arbitrarily disregards safety” and violates the state Constitution.

Amid all this, there is also the ongoing protest movement against racial injustice, which got an unwelcome adrenaline boost this week after the police were filmed shooting an unarmed Black man, Jacob Blake, in the back in Kenosha, Wis. The convention has made a point of emphasizing diversity, with a number of Black and Latino speakers who often talked up Mr. Trump’s record on job creation (despite unemployment now being in the double digits) and the need to fight Democrats’ “socialism.”

When mentioning police reform, Republicans tend to extol the First Step Act, a bill Mr. Trump signed in 2018 to lower mandatory minimum sentences and expand rehabilitation programs, implying that it shows Mr. Trump has good will toward calls for reform. When it comes to the protests themselves, Mr. Trump’s allies relished the opportunity to highlight his forceful response, bragging that the president would continue to promote law and order in the streets.

Yet if the target audience for this convention is moderate suburbanites — and it seems to be, from the softness of much of the Republicans’ messaging over the past two nights — those crackdown politics have the potential to backfire.

An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College poll found Americans essentially split on whether the president had been right to send federal forces into cities like Portland, Ore., to face off against protesters. With suburbanites, on the other hand, the verdict was clear: 61 percent said no — far more than residents in other areas. Just a third of Americans living in suburbs said that increasing federal law enforcement’s involvement had been the right call.

Mr. Trump will give the convention’s closing speech tonight. Although he has made cameo appearances from the White House throughout the convention, this will be his big moment to shine.

You can expect some tough-talking condemnations of Democratic extremism and Chinese aggression, but also some appeals to the center, possibly around child care and education, as Mr. Trump tries in particular to win back some of the suburban women who have so deeply turned against him. But, as always with Mr. Trump, you can also expect the unexpected.

Joe Biden is seeking to upstage the president at his own convention. Mr. Biden’s campaign will be running a pricey two-minute ad on ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox News. The spot is essentially an elevator pitch for the Democratic nominee, clearly painting him as vigorously healthy and compassionate and casting him as a unifying figure.

Other speakers at tonight’s convention include Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development; Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer; and Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

As usual, you can watch the full two-hour broadcast beginning at 9 p.m., at nytimes.com. Our reporters will be online dishing out their analysis — and fact checks — in real time. CNN, MSNBC and PBS will show the full two-hour event, but Fox News and the major broadcast TV networks will air only the second half.

  • The coronavirus may not be the only health risk that students and teachers face if they return to school in person this fall. In the span of a week, nine schools in Ohio and Pennsylvania reported detecting in their plumbing the bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease.

  • Scientists warned that school buildings that have lain unused for many months could be at a higher risk of housing the disease-carrying bacteria.

  • Andrew Whelton, an engineering professor at Purdue University who has been studying the effects of the lockdown on water systems, said that schools should be testing for the bacteria, Legionella. “If parents haven’t heard from their schools about whether or not testing is being conducted, then they should start asking questions,” he said.

  • The authorities in Michigan are investigating the source of deceptive robocalls that appear to be designed to discourage voters from casting mail-in ballots.

  • The calls falsely claim that voting by mail will cause voters’ personal information to be released to police departments and bill collectors.

  • Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s secretary of state, wrote on Twitter today that the robocalls, which she said used racially charged stereotypes, amounted to an “unconscionable, indefensible, blatant attempt to lie to citizens about their right to vote.”

  • Mr. Biden hit back hard today after Mr. Pence warned voters in his speech last night that they “won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.” In an interview with MSNBC, Mr. Biden drew attention back to the Trump administration’s record on the coronavirus.

  • “If you want to talk about safety, the biggest safety issue is people dying from Covid,” he said. “More people have died on this president’s watch than at just about any time in American history, on a daily basis.”

  • In a typical year it would probably have been a common occurrence, but even this small back-and-forth felt noteworthy given how much the pandemic has curtailed the campaign: Rarely has Mr. Biden responded in real time to statements from the Trump team. But as the election nears and the attacks heat up, he is likely to be a more frequent presence on the airwaves.


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This Friday, politics reporters from The Times will take a look back at this week’s Republican convention, breaking down all the key moments and unexpected developments of the event.

Join us in a 30-minute round-table discussion on Aug. 28 at 11 a.m., hosted by The Times’s deputy politics editor, Rachel Dry, and featuring Annie Karni, a White House correspondent; Jonathan Martin, a national political correspondent; and John Eligon, a national correspondent covering race. R.S.V.P. here.

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