(Bloomberg) — Donald Trump accepted the Republican nomination for president in a speech closing the party’s convention on Thursday in which he’s expected to argue voters can’t trust Joe Biden to navigate the coronavirus pandemic or heal the nation’s racial divisions.
“I profoundly accept this nomination for president of the United States,” Trump said. “In a new term as president we will again build the greatest economy in history, quickly returning to full employment, soaring incomes and record prosperity.”
Trump “came to Washington for one reason and one reason alone: to make America great again,” his daughter and White House adviser Ivanka Trump said in remarks introducing him. “My father has strong convictions. He knows what he believes and says what he thinks.”
She said past presidents didn’t have “the guts” of his father to make needed changes.
“When the economy is good, they settle for good, and when things are bad, they don’t have the will or ability, so they kick the can until it’s someone else’s problem,” she said. “He was right. If my father didn’t take on these fights, no one would.”
Trump delivered his address accepting the GOP nomination for president from the South Lawn of the White House, less than 24 hours after catastrophic Hurricane Laura struck Louisiana. Four people were killed when trees fell on their homes, Governor John Bel Edwards said.
“Our thoughts are with the wonderful people who have just come through the wrath of Hurricane Laura,” Trump said. “While the hurricane was fierce, one of the strongest to make landfall in 150 years, the casualties and deaths were far less than thought possible only 24 hours ago.”
The president said earlier Thursday that he was prepared to cancel his speech but that “we got a little bit lucky” with the storm because “it passed quickly.”
His speech capped a four-day gathering that sought to bolster — or in some cases, re-make — his image as a promise-keeper defending traditional American values against Biden and Democrats. Trump’s opponents have been portrayed as socialists and radicals intent on irreparably damaging the very nature of the U.S.
Several speakers repeated claims that the U.S. wouldn’t be safe under a Biden presidency. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Trump friend and adviser, said Democrats want to “execute their pro-criminal, anti-police policies.”
“Don’t let Democrats do to America what they have done to New York,” Giuliani said. “The Democrats are urging you to vote for an obviously defective candidate.”
The convention mixed multiple Black speakers — almost all of them men — asserting that Trump is not a racist with speakers who voiced full-throated support for police, who many Americans believe engage in systemic racism. The president has recently drawn criticism for promising to keep low-income housing out of U.S. suburbs, which his opponents say is a naked appeal to White voters.
“Many on the other side love to incite division by claiming that President Trump is a racist,” Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, the only Black person in Trump’s cabinet, said in a convention speech Thursday. “They could not be more wrong.”
Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said Trump will deliver a “tough speech because Americans have tough choices in front of them.” The campaign believes criticisms of Biden’s record and his proposals haven’t received enough attention, and so Trump will deliver the message himself, Murtaugh told reporters on a call Wednesday.
Democrats spent their convention last week calling Trump an unfit leader who would threaten democracy if given another four years in office.
“At no time before have voters faced a clearer choice between two parties, two visions, two philosophies, or two agendas,” Trump is expected to say, according to excerpts obtained by Bloomberg News. “At the Democrat convention, you barely heard a word about their agenda. But that’s not because they don’t have one. It’s because their agenda is the most extreme set of proposals ever put forward by a major party nominee.”
Trump is expected to defend his response to the pandemic that has killed more than 180,000 Americans and threatens his re-election. About 62% of voters believe the struggle against the coronavirus is “going badly,” according to a CBS News poll released Sunday, while just 27% of Americans say things are going well overall.
While Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have emphasized Trump’s limits on travel from China and efforts to rapidly build ventilators and develop vaccines and therapies, Democrats say Trump cost American lives by initially dismissing the threat of the virus and never developing a comprehensive national response.
Trump is also expected to address protests and riots that have erupted across the country since the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May, Murtaugh said. The latest epicenter is in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where police shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, on Sunday.
Two people were shot and killed in the Kenosha protests on Tuesday by a White Illinois teenager who has expressed support for Trump on social media. Trump will speak about events in Kenosha, Murtaugh said.
Trump and Republicans at this week’s convention have nodded at the right to protest racial injustice. But more emphasis has been placed on support for police and what Trump has repeatedly called the need for “law and order” on U.S. streets.
“I have seen his true conscience,” a Black aide at the White House, Ja’Ron Smith, said in a convention speech. “I just wish everyone could see the deep empathy he shows to families whose loved ones were killed in senseless violence.”
That theme will continue on Thursday night, with scheduled speakers including Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York, which has endorsed Trump, and Ann Dorn, the widow of retired St. Louis police captain David Dorn, who was killed during protests in June.
“You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America,” Lynch said. “You can have four more years of President Trump. Or you can have no safety, no justice, no peace.”
Trump was also tweeting about law and order before his speech, saying the most dangerous cities in the U.S. are run by Democrats and that Biden didn’t mention “the Anarchists, Agitators, Looters and so-called ‘Peaceful Protesters’” at the Democratic convention last week.
The president is expected to herald an economic recovery from the pandemic, though the country continues to suffer about 1,000 deaths each day from the virus and and initial jobless claims for the week ended Aug. 22 topped 1 million again on Thursday. About 14.5 million Americans are still claiming unemployment benefits.
While Trump’s top concern is persuading Americans that the pandemic has been better managed and more contained than they think, his advisers have indicated he’ll also look to outline a second-term agenda on Thursday. The president has struggled repeatedly in recent interviews to articulate any policy goals or ambitions if he’s re-elected, beyond further tax cuts.
On Sunday, his campaign released a 50-point “2nd Term Agenda.”
The theme of Thursday night’s program is “land of greatness,” and Trump will describe his “uplifting and optimistic view of the United States, its history and its founding and our values” compared with “doom and gloom” from Democrats, Murtaugh told reporters.
“The Republican Party goes forward united, determined, and ready to welcome millions of Democrats, Independents, and anyone who believes in the Greatness of America and the righteous heart of the American people,” Trump will say, according to excerpts. “This towering American spirit has prevailed over every challenge, and lifted us to the summit of human endeavor.”
Other speakers on Wednesday include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; Housing Secretary Ben Carson, the only Black member of Trump’s cabinet; Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate; and Representative Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, a former Democrat who switched parties earlier this year, objecting to Trump’s impeachment.
“There are a lot of Democrats who support our president and are disgusted for what their old party — what my old party — has become,” Van Drew said. “Here’s my advice: be true to who you are now, not who the Democrats used to be.”
McConnell spoke for less than Trump’s social media director, Dan Scavino, and Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White.
“The stakes have never been higher, which is why I’m asking you to support Republican Senate candidates from across the country and re-elect my friend Donald Trump,” McConnell said.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said in a speech opening the convention’s final night that “the choice before you could not be clearer: forward in freedom or backward in socialism.”
Other planned speakers include Alice Johnson, a Black woman to whom Trump granted clemency at the request of Kim Kardashian; Carl and Marsha Mueller, parents of a U.S. aid worker killed by Islamic State; and evangelical leader Franklin Graham (NYSE:GHM).
(Updates with Ivanka Trump remarks beginning in second paragraph)
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