The most unusual convention season in modern American history resumed Monday as Republicans renominated President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
And in a year in which the coronavirus pandemic upended daily life and altered the shape of the presidential campaign, Trump and Pence made an unconventional move, separately showing up during the roll call of states in the afternoon to deliver speeches to 336 Republican delegates gathered in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“If you want to really drive them crazy, you say 12 more years,” Trump told delegates after they chanted the traditional, “four more years.”
In the first of two appearances during the prime-time program from the White House, Trump talked to front-line workers, including some who had recovered from COVID-19.
“I’m for the nurses, I’m for the doctors, I’m for everybody,” Trump said.
Later, he talked to half a dozen American hostages who had been freed.
“We got you all back,” Trump told them.
Others who spoke at night ripped into Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris. They contended he would shut down the economy, give in to China and raise taxes.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Florida in a video news conference said Biden would beat back the virus and restore the economy — goals she said Trump couldn’t achieve.
“The current occupant of the White House has abandoned our families, our children, our seniors,” she said. “Under this president’s failed leadership, our families are in crisis and President Trump is incapable of doing anything about it.”
In his afternoon remarks, Trump said he “felt an obligation” to appear in North Carolina and criticized Biden for accepting the Democratic nomination in Wilmington, Delaware.
Last week, Democrats staged a mostly virtual convention that was anchored in Milwaukee and staged across America. The Biden campaign said Biden and others did not appear in person to avoid the spread of coronavirus.
FULL COVERAGE:Democratic National Convention
“Another state that has been very good to me is Wisconsin and Joe Biden was going to have their convention in Milwaukee and they didn’t go there at all,” said Trump, who spoke for nearly an hour in his first appearance. “We did this out of respect for your state.”
Pence was exuberant as he spoke to delegates.
“Men and women of the Republican National Convention, it’s on,” Pence said.
In the evening, Donald Trump Jr. addressed the convention, saying Biden wouldn’t fight the establishment or stand up to China.
“Beijing Biden is so weak on China that the intelligence community recently assessed that the Chinese Communist Party favors Biden,” he said.
He did not mention that the same assessment found Russia prefers Trump and is engaging in efforts to hurt Biden.
Trump Jr. said Biden would hurt the economy, reverse Trump’s efforts to halt illegal immigration and keep tax money in Washington, D.C.
“But that makes sense, considering Joe Biden is basically the Loch Ness Monster of the swamp,” he said. “For the past half-century, he’s been lurking around in there. Then he sticks his head up every now and then to run for president, then he disappears and doesn’t do much in between.”
The prime-time show included a prerecorded roll call of states from around the country that included large numbers of people standing close to one another without masks on, despite health officials’ recommendations to take those steps to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, criticized the foreign policy of Biden as vice president and Barack Obama as president. She said they had not done enough to contain North Korea and Iran or enough to help Israel
“Joe Biden is good for Iran and ISIS, great for Communist China and he’s a godsend to everyone who wants America to apologize, abstain and abandon our values,” she said.
Haley, who is viewed as a potential future presidential candidate, said the country would take a bad turn under Biden.
“Last time, Joe’s boss was Obama. This time, it would be Pelosi, Sanders and the squad,” she said, referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and the most liberal members of the House.
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina talked about growing up in a two-bedroom house with his mom and grandparents, with his mom working 16-hour days.
“Do we want a society that breeds success, or a culture that cancels everything it even slightly disagrees with?” he asked. “I know where I stand, because you see, I am living my mother’s American Dream.”
Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, blasted Biden for telling a radio host that someone who doesn’t vote for him is not Black. He criticized him for pushing a crime bill through the Senate in the 1990s. He said Biden would make the country worse if they were elected.
“Make no mistake: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris want a cultural revolution,” he said. “A fundamentally different America.”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the former Milwaukee archbishop, delivered the evening’s opening prayer.
“Pray we must that all lives may be protected and respected,” he intoned.
Convention follows Kenosha shooting
The Republicans held their convention as the eyes of the world fell on Kenosha, where police shot Jacob Blake from behind Sunday. It was the latest instance of white officers shooting a Black person, and it fueled protests like those that have occurred across the country since George Floyd died in Minneapolis after a police officer kneeled on his neck.
In Kenosha, demonstrators smashed up buildings and burned vehicles.
The president did not mention the Kenosha shooting or others that preceded it but contended in his afternoon remarks that he had done more for Black Americans than any president since Abraham Lincoln. He criticized the unrest that gripped Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon, after Floyd was killed.
“You have the right to bear arms, especially when you look at a Portland and you see how weak those Democrats are,” Trump said in the afternoon.
Several speakers praised Trump and said he is not racist.
Herschel Walker, the former NFL player, Heisman Trophy winner and Olympic bobsled team member, said he feels insulted when people call Trump racist.
“Growing up in the Deep South, I have seen racism up close,” he said. “I know what it is. And it isn’t Donald Trump.”
Vernon Jones, a Georgia state lawmaker who described himself as a lifelong Democrat, said he had decided to speak at the opposing party’s convention.
“The Democratic Party does not want Black people to leave the mental plantation they’ve had us on for decades,” he said.
His appearance was a rejoinder to former Ohio Gov. John Kasich and other Republicans who spoke at the Democratic convention to say they were backing Biden.
Gun rights were at the heart of comments from Mark and Patricia McCloskey of St. Louis, who drew national attention in June when they stood on their lawn waving guns at Black Lives Matter protesters who marched through their affluent neighborhood. They were each charged with unlawful use of a weapon for the incident last month.
“At this moment in history, if you stand up for yourself and for the values our country was founded on, the mob — spurred on by their allies in the media — will try to destroy you,” Mark McCloskey said.
Walker nominates Pence
Former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker nominated Pence for vice president and later gave a speech introducing the former Indiana governor to the delegates.
“Mike Pence will always stand with the good and decent men and women of law enforcement,” Walker said.
Walker also spoke of Pence’s devotion to faith, family and friends.
“He’s Midwest nice, but he’s strong,” Walker said.
Walker noted that Trump and Pence were in Wisconsin last week “while Joe Biden was hanging out in his basement in Delaware.”
Trump is to appear in some fashion for the next three nights and will accept his party’s nomination on Thursday. Pence will accept his nomination on Wednesday from Fort McHenry in Baltimore.
Trump attacks mail voting
Trump used his afternoon speech to repeatedly attack mail voting and made the unfounded accusation that Democrats are “using COVID to steal the election.”
“They’ll be dumping them in neighborhoods,” Trump said of mail ballots. “People are going to be picking them up. They’ll be bribing. They’ll be paying off people to grab some. This is going to be one of the greatest scams.”
Fraud has been rare in the five states that ordinarily conduct their elections largely by mail. There is not enough time for most other states to convert to entirely mail voting this fall, though Wisconsin and other states are expected to see dramatic increases in mail voting because of the pandemic.
In Wisconsin, absentee ballot applications will be mailed by the state to most registered voters next month. But voters will receive actual ballots only if they request them.
While Trump trashed mail voting during much of his speech, he also urged his supporters to vote that way.
“If you have an absentee ballot where you request it, we’re all in favor of that,” he said.
His comments contrasted with those of Democrats, who repeatedly contended at their convention that voting was under attack and urged people to request their absentee ballots now so they could return them as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, Democrats unveiled a new ad attacking what they called “Republican National Chaos” and the claim that “Trump has no plan for COVID.”
The Biden campaign also released a list of 27 former Republican members of Congress who are endorsing the Democratic ticket. The list was led by former U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona.