CHARLOTTE — President Donald Trump officially became the Republican Party’s presidential nominee Monday after a scaled-down group of delegates gathered for a roll-call vote at the Charlotte Convention Center.
Trump, who had promised to focus the Republican National Convention on a more positive and upbeat vision for the country, opened his speech as the newly selected nominee by attacking Democrats for their push to expand access to mail-in ballots amid the ongoing pandemic.
“It’s not fair, it’s not right, and it’s not going to be possible to tabulate,” Trump said. “They are using COVID to defraud the American people of a fair and free election.”
“They are trying to steal the election,” Trump continued. “Don’t let them take it away from you.”
When Trump mentioned former President Barack Obama’s name, an attendee appeared to shout “monkey” or “spygate.”
“Let’s be nice,” Trump said, provoking laughter from the audience. He then added, “This could only happen in North Carolina,” before continuing with his remarks.
Vice President Mike Pence also addressed the convention just before Trump went over the 1,276 delegate threshold needed to win the nomination, telling supporters “America needs four more years of President Donald Trump in the White House.”
Trump and Pence were on official White House trips to North Carolina Monday, making a surprise visit to the RNC.
Trump is the first impeached president to be nominated for a second term. President Bill Clinton was term-limited when he was impeached, and President Andrew Johnson failed to secure the Democratic Party nomination at the 1868 convention after he was impeached. Johnson, like Trump, avoided conviction in the Senate.
The Charlotte convention, once expected to draw thousands of people to the city, was forced to dramatically shrink after the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Just 336 delegates gathered at the Charlotte Convention Center, six from each state and territory, for the state-by-state roll call. Representatives from each state were granted roughly a minute to speak as they cast their votes to nominate Trump.
Delegates were instructed to wear a mask around the convention center and attendees were asked to get tested for the coronavirus before traveling to Charlotte. Each person was to receive another test upon arrival.
North Carolina officials granted the RNC an exception to the 10-person cap on indoor activities. Just a few reporters were invited to the convention floor in an effort to promote social distancing.
“We are obviously disappointed we could not hold this event in the same way we had originally planned,” Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, said as she gaveled in the convention.
Still, the in-person gathering was a sharp contrast to the Democratic’s convention the week before. Democratic delegates cast their votes in a virtual roll call showcasing the individual states and territories and Joe Biden spoke form his home state of Delaware.
“Joe Biden was going to have his convention in Milwaukee and he didn’t go there,” Trump said. “We did this out of respect for the state of North Carolina.”
Delegates on Monday could be heard trying to gin up some excitement on the floor.
“Okay, hunny bunnies, we have to shout a little louder, we have to stand a little taller,” one woman said to other delegates during a brief recess before Trump’s arrival. “It looks really flat from the back and this is on national TV. The Democrats are watching.”
Trump, intent on holding an in-person convention, announced in June he would move the RNC to Jacksonville, Fla., after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper refused to guarantee that Republicans could hold a full-scale and unrestricted convention.
The Jacksonville plans were ultimately scrapped as the virus in Florida worsened. Republicans eventually settled on holding just the procedural portion of the convention in Charlotte. The bulk of the events, including the high-profile prime-time speeches, will take place in Washington.
Donald Trump Jr., Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott are expected to speak Monday night.
Ignoring complaints about potential ethics violations, Trump will deliver his acceptance speech from the White House South Lawn on Thursday night.