WASHINGTON – After cancellations, venue changes and scheduling chaos, the Republican National Convention will get underway this week with one constant: Donald Trump.
Trump plans to appear every night of the four-day virtual convention to give the president maximum air timeto promote his administration’s record and condemn his rival, Democratic contender Joe Biden. Presidential nominees often do not appear at their own political convention until the fourth and final night, to accept the nomination.
“President Trump’s boundless optimism and certainty in America’s greatness is reflected in his second-term goals and stands in stark contrast to the gloomy vision of America projected by Joe Biden and Democrats,” said a campaign statement previewing Trump’s acceptance speech on Thursday.
More than 70 other GOP convention speakers plan to deliver Trump’s message on the virtual convention stage this week. The Biden campaign said Americans who tune in will see Trump has no plans to address the COVID-19 pandemic or the economic problems it has spawned.
“What they will hear from Donald Trump this week are the last things our country needs: more desperate, wild-eyed lies and toxic division in vain attempts to distract from his mismanagement,” said Biden spokesman Andrew Bates.
A regular Republican convention had been planned for Charlotte, N.C., but was scrapped because of the spread of COVID-19. The GOP then said they’d move the event to Jacksonville, Fla., but those plans also fell by the wayside because of the pandemic.
Republicans will now host a mostly virtual convention with the theme “Honoring the Great American Story,” officials said, with each night devoted to a different aspect of that story: “Land of Promise,” “Land of Opportunity,” “Land of Heroes,” and “Land of Greatness.”
The four-day line-up of speakers will include a gamut of big-name Republican officials and lesser-know Trump supporters, such as the the St. Louis couple who brandished guns at protesters who marched through their neighborhood and a woman who had her prison sentence commuted by the president.
Many of the speakers have been involved with issues that are important to the Trump campaign, including “law and order,” gun rights, criminal justice reform, religious liberty, and lower taxes and fewer regulations.
Monday’s agenda features GOP lawmakers like Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., the only Black Republican in the Senate, and House members Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Matt Gaetz of Florida, and Jim Jordan of Ohio. Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, also plans to speak.
In addition to Trump himself, each night of the convention will also feature a special guest speaker.
First Lady Melania Trump gets the spotlight on Tuesday, speaking from the White House Rose Garden that she helped re-design in recent weeks.
Wednesday includes the acceptance speech of Vice President Mike Pence. His stage: Fort McHenry in Baltimore, site of the battle in the War of 1812 that inspired the writing of “The Star Spangled Banner,” now the national anthem.
Athletes who kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality and other forms of racial discrimination are expected to be frequent targets during the GOP convention.
Trump will give his acceptance speech Thursday from a controversial venue: The South Lawn of the White House.
Lawmakers and public policy experts have noted that the White House – and Fort McHenry, for that matter – are funded by taxpayers for public purposes and shouldn’t be used for such blatantly political events.
“Hundreds and perhaps thousands of federal employees are being dragooned against their will into making these events happen,” said ambassador Norman Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Trump’s speech is scheduled to be followed by fireworks by the National Mall.
Republican planners have been mum about where other speakers will be and kept other details under wraps, saying they want to reserve some surprises for viewers.
The week’s activities technically began Monday morning with a meeting in Charlotte, N.C., where Republican National Committee members met to formally re-nominate Trump and Pence.
Charlotte was supposed to be the site of the convention. But the Republicans pulled it after state government officials refused to lift restrictions on mass gatherings, citing the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
The GOP’s alternate venue, Jacksonville, Fla., was also nixed amid a spike in coronavirus cases in Florida, forcing plans for a virtual convention based mostly in Washington, D.C.
How to watch
USA TODAY will stream each night of the convention and will provide live coverage and analysis as events unfold.
ABC, CBS, and NBC will air convention coverage each night beginning at 10 p.m. EDT. PBS and CNN begin their coverage at 8 p.m., MSNBC begins at 7 p.m. Fox News’ official coverage starts at 10 p.m., but hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity will likely cover the RNC in the two hours before.
The official livestream of the convention will also be available on Amazon Prime, Facebook, Twitch, Twitter and YouTube.