US President Donald Trump will draw on all his showman's instincts at the Republican convention starting Monday to get Americans to look beyond his handling of the coronavirus crisis and return him to the White House for a second term.
US President Donald Trump looks on during a press conference in the Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, August 23, 2020. (Photo: AFP)
Facing anger over the pandemic and ensuing economic pain, Trump badly trails his Democratic opponent Joe Biden in the polls.
He is also weighed down by the growing turmoil in his inner circle, with former chief strategist Steve Bannon arrested last week on fraud charges and a current top advisor, Kellyanne Conway, announcing late Sunday that she was stepping down to spend time with her family.
But the Republican insists he can replicate his surprise 2016 win -- and hopes the convention, where he will be nominated to seek reelection November 3, will launch the comeback.
Unlike standard party conventions, where the candidate stays mostly out of the way until the last night, Trump is expected to be in the limelight all four days.
His family, which has had an unusual amount of influence and access at the White House during his tumultuous first term, will also be omnipresent.
There'll be First Lady Melania Trump's speech in the Rose Garden on Tuesday and addresses by the president's children, including right-wing firebrand son Don Jr, daughter-advisor Ivanka and daughter-in-law Lara Trump.
The nomination itself will be made on Monday in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Republican delegates are gathering to conduct the roll call. Trump will also be speaking in the state.
But Trump's main speech accepting the nomination is set for Thursday at the White House itself -- a show of power trampling over the custom of separating political campaigns from the office of president.
In another move stretching etiquette, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will make a speech on his behalf while conducting an official trip to Israel.
Democrats put on a well-honed production at their all-online convention last week, culminating with Biden's emotional pledge to be an "ally of the light" after the "darkness" of Trump's first term.
Trump, though, has years of his own experience in television and has reportedly brought in two of the producers on his old reality TV show "The Apprentice" to help out.
God, jobs and guns
For all his bullishness, Trump faces an uphill struggle against Biden, who 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 demonization of 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. While details were still unclear, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers compared the incident to other incidents where outrage has erupted over excessive use of force.
Trump is attempting to reverse the Democrats' narrative that he is to blame for the deep gloom in the country, saying that their convention "spent four straight days attacking America as racist and a horrible country that must be redeemed."
On Sunday, he told Fox News his convention would be "uplifting and positive."
Trump's number one message is that the economy, reeling from the shock of the nationwide shutdown earlier this year, will come back soon.
He told Fox News he will be promising tax cuts and "the best economy ever."
But the sunny tone is likely to get heavy competition from Trump's other favorite themes -- his often outlandish claims that Democrats want to take away Americans' firearms, unleash anarchy in the streets, encourage mass illegal immigration, and even repress religious freedom.
Earlier this month, Trump told a crowd that Biden will "hurt the Bible, hurt God" -- a statement that quickly drew outrage and ridicule.
Asked by Fox News whether a kinder, gentler kind of Trump might be seen in a second term, the president said: "I'd like it to be calm, too."
But "I have to fight back," he said. "If I don't fight back strong, I wouldn't be sitting here right now."