President Donald Trump welcomed his formal re-nomination at the Republican National Convention much like he has greeted crowds across the country, press in the briefing room at the White House, and workers on factory floors in the months after his rallies were shut down: with a lengthy, rambling, grievance-filled speech.
Despite promising an “optimistic” event, Trump had no sooner taken to the podium before he complained about mail-in voting in an evidence-free attack on the democratic method that he returned to several times over the course of the more than 50-minute address.
“The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election,” Trump lied at one point during his address. “We're going to win this election.”
Speaking in Charlotte to more than 300 delegates, the remnants of the long planned Republican National Convention, after formally being renominated by a roll call vote, Trump ping-ponged between ticking off what he saw as some of his administration’s greatest accomplishments (tax and regulation cuts) with lengthy diatribes denigrating Democrats that were greeted enthusiastically by the crowd of loyal followers.
His recent obsession with mail-in voting comes as many states have mailed out applications for ballots to provide people with a safe option to participate in the election during the public health crisis, which experts have predicted will worsen in the fall.
“What they’re doing is using COVID to steal an election,” Trump said. "They're using COVID to defraud the American people, all of our people, of a fair and free election."
Trump will give an official acceptance speech from The White House Thursday night, but Monday likely offered a preview of the president’s counter argument after Democrats made clear at their own convention that they believe Trump is actively attacking the nation’s democratic principles.
Trump also once again targeted North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper who resisted Trump’s push for a full arena for the planned Republican National Convention in Charlotte. The Democratic leader’s unwillingness to falter under Trump’s pressure enraged the president. But Trump’s attempt to move the convention to Jacksonville, Florida collapsed amid similar coronavirus era concerns.
Cooper proved to be right with his reluctance, as Trump’s abandoned push in Florida showed, but Trump ignored that reality as he told the delegates he “felt an obligation to be here,” and emphasized to the swing state of North Carolina that “we did this out of respect for your state.”
He slammed the governor as one “in a total shutdown mood,” before delving into another false conspiracy theory that tied states' coronavirus restrictions to the November election.
“I guarantee you on November 4th, it will all open up, it’ll be fine like most other states,” Trump said. “On November 4th, these Democrat governors they love shut down until after the election's over because they want to make our numbers look as bad as possible for the economy, but our numbers are looking so good.”
Trump’s decision to abandon Florida for the convention left Republicans with roughly a month to assemble a four-night convention to try and match the Democrats' convention last week, which was largely successful despite the challenges presented by the public health crisis.
Trump’s ability to hold the campaign rallies he craves has largely been sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic. And throughout his speech Monday, Trump seemed to relish the affection and calls of “four more years” that the crowd of Trump fans showered him with. Trump returned the praise, calling the delegates “warriors” as he claimed to have “the greatest base of support.”
Like the Democrats last week, Trump also emphasized the stakes of the election. But instead of trying to counter the Democrats pointing to Trump’s attacks on democracy, the president relied on feeding his base the grievances it thrives on when they come from the president’s mouth.
Trump’s focus on judicial appointments helped him shore up support with voters during his 2016 run, and the president readily tried to take that same tactic again.
“[Biden] would appoint, it's not him, he has no choice, the radical left will demand that he appoints super radical left, wild, crazy justices going into the Supreme Court,” Trump said. “Your American dream will be dead if that happens. It'll be dead.”