Donald Trump opened his bid for a second term after securing the Republican nomination Monday, with his party launching its national convention as the US president claims Democrats want to “steal” the election that polls currently show him losing.
Minutes after the party completed the nomination vote confirming Trump as the candidate on November 3, he appeared at the convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, to deliver a rambling, often dark speech lasting close to an hour.
From the opening words, he told Republicans to be on alert for what he claimed was a Democratic plan to rig the contest through increased use of mail-in voting – a measure Democrats say is needed to protect people from catching Covid-19 in crowded polling stations.
“They are trying to steal the election,” he told party delegates, many of whom were wearing masks. “The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election.”
Opponents say Trump’s increasingly extreme resistance to expanded mail-in voting – a method already used widely in the United States – is an attempt to suppress voter turnout, while setting up an excuse to challenge the result if he is defeated.
Polls show Trump trailing Democratic candidate Joe Biden, who had his convention last week, as Americans turn on the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic chaos.
Trump hopes the convention, which concludes Thursday with his formal acceptance of the nomination, will shift voters’ attention from the coronavirus to what he says is the “super V” shaped economic recovery.
Prime time coverage kicked off Monday night with a celebration of “rugged” American individualism and Trump’s fighting spirit, as a voiceover lauded Trump’s “swift action” to save lives during the coronavirus pandemic.
Like the Democrats one week before them, Republican organizers packed their gathering with a mixture of politicians and everyday Americans.
Their dual message? Trump deserves four more years in office, and a Biden presidency would reshape the nation into an unrecognizable socialist state intent on killing the American dream.
Montana small business owner Tanya Weinreis fueled the fear of a Democratic takeover, telling the convention that workers “now face the terrifying prospect of Joe Biden coming after everything we’ve built.”
While incumbents usually keep away from their party conventions until the final night, Trump immediately took over the event in Charlotte, which had been drastically scaled back due to Covid-19 precautions.
Trump is expected to make more live television appearances on each of the four days ahead of his acceptance speech at the White House.
His children, including Ivanka and right-wing firebrand son Don Jr, are also giving convention speeches. First Lady Melania Trump addresses the nation from the White House’s Rose Garden on Tuesday.
In addition to suffering from broad unpopularity, Trump is weighed down by ever-growing turmoil and scandal around his administration.
Former chief strategist Steve Bannon was arrested last week on fraud charges and a current top advisor, Kellyanne Conway, announced Sunday she is stepping down shortly to spend time with her family.
Trump insists, however, that he can replicate his surprise 2016 win, and hopes the convention will put the wind in his sails.
“This week we will take our case to the American people,” Vice President Mike Pence told delegates ahead of Trump’s arrival, promising to “make America great again – again.”
‘We must fight’
Biden is tapping into unhappiness with the president’s handling of the pandemic, unrest over racial inequality and fear of longterm economic damage from the coronavirus shutdown.
Beyond bread-and-butter issues, Trump’s abrasive style, his habit of insulting people in public, his attacks on journalists and almost total inability to talk to Democratic leaders has left the country divided and exhausted.
In a potential new flashpoint, protests erupted in the critical electoral state of Wisconsin after police there shot a black man in the back. Details were still unclear.
Trump is attempting to reclaim the high ground with an emphasis on restoring the economy and getting America back to work.
But the sunny tone is already getting overshadowed by Republicans’ lurid claims that Democrats want to take away Americans’ firearms and unleash anarchy in the streets.
“We must fight to save her now,” Republican congressman Matt Gaetz told the convention, speaking of the United States, “or we may lose her forever.”