In Charlotte, Trump Touts Record, Blasts Democrats in Nearly Hour-long Speech

August 25, 2020by Jim Morrill, Tim Funk and Austin Weinstein, The Charlotte Observer (TNS)
President Donald J. Trump addresses the Republican National Convention at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, N.C., Monday August, 24, 2020. The GOP convention was scaled back this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. (David T. Foster III/The Charlotte Observer/TNS)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Donald Trump gave a rallylike speech at Monday’s Republican National Convention in Charlotte, touting his record, blasting his opponent and accusing Democrats of trying to “steal the election.”

“They are trying to steal the election … just like they did last time,” he told delegates at the Charlotte Convention Center. “The only way they can take this election away from us is if it’s a rigged election.”

Trump, whose unscheduled appearance followed that of Vice President Mike Pence, capped the Charlotte portion of a convention that shifts to Washington for the next four nights.

Delegates renominated them in a roll call vote that hearkened back to traditional conventions though this convention, like the Democrats’ last week, is anything but traditional.

Trump said he made a point of coming to Charlotte after the coronavirus pandemic forced Democrats to opt for a virtual convention and all but abandon Milwaukee, their intended host.

“They didn’t go there at all,” Trump said. “We did this out of respect for your state. … You’re going to remember that I think Nov. 3 … . I love this state.”

In meandering, 52-minute remarks, the president rhapsodized about the pre-pandemic economy and then tried to paint a rosy picture of his handling of the virus. A poll released Monday shows just 31% of Americans approve of how he has dealt with the pandemic, which has left more than 177,000 Americans dead.

“We’re getting ready to do things like nobody’s ever done before,” he said, referring to work on a vaccine and other possible treatments. “We were there and then we got hit by the plague … Think of your life just before the plague coming in. … We’ve saved millions and millions of lives.

“We learned all about the enemy, the invisible enemy,” he said, without mentioning his occasional criticism of his own science advisers.

Even amid headlines about infection outbreaks at universities and an uptick of cases in the Midwest, Trump also argued that things were looking up.

“Most of the country is right now doing very, very well,” he said. “We did the exact right thing. We shut it down, then we reopened. … If we didn’t shut it down at that point, we would have millions of people dead.”

He attacked Democratic nominee Joe Biden for saying he’d consider shutting down the country’s economy again if that’s what his science advisers recommended to finally deal with the spread of the virus.

Trump has been criticized for not having a national plan. But the president defended leaving it to governors, though he added that many of them were “ill-prepared” and that his administration helped them by supplying ventilators and protective equipment for medical workers.

He predicted not the V-shaped economic recovery forecast by some economists but a “super V.”

Democrats dismissed the president’s remarks.

“Republicans promised that Trump would deliver an uplifting message to the American people, but what we just heard was more of the same,” Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Lily Adams said in a statement. “The same lies. The same incoherence. And the same incompetence. As Americans suffer through a health care crisis and economic recession fueled by Trump’s chaos, he hasn’t found a new tone, he’s doubled down.”

Democrats, meanwhile, released a new TV ad in North Carolina that features images of the Spectrum Center, the original site of the RNC. “Welcome to the RNC — Republican National Chaos,” it says, accusing Trump of mismanaging the pandemic response.

In his remarks, Trump recounted his skirmish with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper over the state’s pandemic-related rules that kept Republicans from having a 19,000-plus person convention in the arena.

He also repeated his unsubstantiated claim that widespread mail-in voting would lead to fraud favoring the Democrats. He cited the absentee ballot scandal in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District that forced state elections officials to throw out the 2018 election that involved Republican pastor Mark Harris.

Trump said that “They wanted to put Harris in jail for harvesting” ballots. A Harris operative was prosecuted, but not Harris.

Republicans signaled that they plan to beat the drum this week for Trump’s record on the economy, tax cuts, abortion, guns and standing up to China. But there was comparatively little mention of the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the few times it came up during the nominations and roll call was from North Carolina GOP Chair Michael Whatley, who said, “Only President Trump will eradicate the coronavirus and rebuild our economy.”

Delegates road-tested slogans and themes that could become part of the campaign, including “Jobs, not mobs” and the perennial “Four more years.”

“Four more years means more judges,” Pence told delegates. “Four more years means more support for our troops and our cops. It’s going to take at least four more years to drain that swamp. So … it’s on. Now is the time. This is the moment.”

GOP Chair Ronna McDaniel set the tone early.

She said last week’s Democratic convention was “depressing, doom and gloom, night after night.” She called it “a masterpiece of fiction about (Trump’s) record” and dismissed Biden and running mate Kamala Harris as “the most radical socialist far-left ticket in American history.”

“At this week’s Republican National Convention, expect to hear real stories from real Americans, not condescension from liberal elites,” she said in an earlier statement. “The Democrats may have Hollywood, but it is the Heartland where President Trump has made everyday life better for real hardworking middle-class Americans.”

In contrast to the Democrats’ roll-call vote, which took viewers on a video tour around the country, Republicans held a classic in-person roll-call, complete with the tradition of adding local flavor to the rote listing of votes. Those speaking for the states during the Republican roll call were predominantly white and mostly male — a sharp contrast to last week’s Democratic roll call, which reflected the country’s growing diversity.

Connecticut, the Nutmeg state, cast 28 “spicy” votes for Trump. Delaware’s representative wore a tri-corner hat, to commemorate that state’s role in the American Revolution. Rhode Island was the Ocean State “that likes to make waves.”

And the Montana delegate recast his state as “Trumptana … We have at least five guns in every home.”

GOP 9th District Chair John Steward of Union County delivered North Carolina’s votes in a black and white sport coat emblazoned with images of Trump.

“History is made in North Carolina,” he said, reciting a litany of firsts including the Wright Brothers’ flight. “And history will be made in 2020 when North Carolina leads the nation in reelecting President Donald J. Trump.”

In his remarks, Trump again claimed that not since Lincoln has a president done as much for the African American community as he has. He cited his efforts on criminal justice reform and increasing funding for historically Black colleges. Biden and Harris have overwhelming support from Black voters. But Trump hopes to increase his own chances by cutting into the Democrats’ vote totals by raising his percentage of the Black vote.

The events that led to this admittedly low-key event zigged and zagged from the handshake world of local Charlotte politics to the conflict between Trump and Cooper. The Charlotte City Council’s vote to host the convention in the first place passed by a single vote two years ago.

In the months since the pandemic set in, the fate and location of the convention was in doubt numerous times. Early into the pandemic, Trump threatened to pull the convention from Charlotte if he couldn’t have a fully packed arena. He then said he would move the convention to Jacksonville, Florida, leaving only the contractually required activities in Charlotte.

But when COVID-19 spiked in Florida, in part due to the state’s rapid relaxation of public health restrictions, Jacksonville was no longer an option. A skeleton convention in Charlotte, tightly hewn to local public health guidelines, was all that was left.

Despite the tumultuous path to Monday’s events, McDaniel praised Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, a Democrat who was a top booster of bringing the RNC to Charlotte. “You, the city, and Mecklenburg County have been great partners,” McDaniel said.

Trump’s nomination came eight years after former President Barack Obama also was renominated in Charlotte.

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©2020 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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