WASHINGTON – As Republicans make the case for a second Trump term at their convention, trouble is brewing outside.
A potentially catastrophic Category 4 hurricane is bearing down on Texas and Louisiana and will likely test the administration's emergency response capabilities. California is battling some of the largest wildfires in its history. A city in the battleground state of Wisconsin is reeling after another night of violent protests. And the coronavirus pandemic — the worst public health crisis in a century — is raging.
The approaches to the turmoil taken by President Donald Trump and his allies have been striking.
The first two nights of the Republican National Convention included virtually no reference to the hurricane gaining strength in the Gulf of Mexico or to the California fires. A Las Vegas pastor did open the second night of the convention with a prayer for Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who was shot by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, prompting three nights of protests. But most speakers have stuck to Trump's law-and-order message, warning that electing Democrat Joe Biden would lead to violence in American cities spilling into the suburbs, a message with racist undertones
Health issues weren't totally ignored. But Larry Kudlow, the president's top economic adviser, referred to the virus in the past tense even as the death toll in the United States surpassed 178,000. And Natalie Harp, a California woman who has battled bone cancer, credited a Trump-backed law with saving her life and argued the nation would be in a far worse place without his leadership.
First Lady Melania Trump was the most direct of any of the convention speakers in addressing the suffering wrought by the pandemic.
“My deepest sympathy goes out to everyone who has lost a loved one, and my prayers are with those who are ill or suffering,” she said Tuesday night. “I know many people are anxious and some feel helpless. I want you to know you are not alone.”
With Election Day just 10 weeks off and early voting beginning much sooner, Trump is under increasing pressure to reshape the contours of the campaig n. The divergent messages at the convention reflect the Trump campaign’s broader struggle to home in on a coherent message that will resonate with voters in a country confronting a historic convergence of health, economic, environmental and social crises.
Republicans sought on Tuesday to show a more forgiving side of a combative president. The first lady called her husband someone who will “not stop fighting for you and your families.” The president pardoned a reformed felon and oversaw a naturalization ceremony for several immigrants, though he frequently states his vigorous opposition to more immigration, legal as well as illegal.
Those efforts, aimed at humanizing Trump's image, also represented an unprecedented move to harness the trappings of the presidency to advance a political campaign. The naturalization ceremony took place inside the White House while Mrs. Trump spoke from the Rose Garden.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the convention and nation during an official overseas trip in Israel. The taped appearance broke with decades of tradition of secretaries of state avoiding the appearance of involving themselves in domestic politics.
The convention has featured fierce attacks on Biden and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris. But the lineup on Tuesday was generally more positive than the opening night, in part due to some last-minute changes.
Mary Ann Mendoza, an Arizona woman whose son, a police officer, was killed in 2014 in a car accident involving an immigrant in the country illegally, was pulled from the program minutes before the event began. She had directed her Twitter followers to a series of anti-Semitic, conspiratorial messages.
There were also barrier breakers featured like Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, the first African American to hold statewide office in Kentucky, and Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez, first Latina to hold that office in her state.
Still Mrs. Trump was the intended star of the night.
Out of the public view for much of the year, she stepped into the spotlight while avoiding the missteps that marred her introduction to the nation four years ago.
At her 2016 convention speech, she included passages similar to what former first lady Michelle Obama had said in her first convention speech. A speechwriter for the Trump Organization later took the blame.
Only the second foreign-born first lady in U.S. history, Mrs. Trump, 50, is a native of Slovenia, a former communist country in eastern Europe. She became Trump's third wife in 2005 and gave birth to their now 14-year-old son, Barron, in 2006 — the year she became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
The first lady spoke from the renovated Rose Garden, despite questions about using the White House for a political convention. She addressed an in-person group of around 50 people, including her husband.
“Whether you like it or not, you always know what he’s thinking. And that is because he’s an authentic person who loves this country and its people and wants to continue to make it better,” Mrs. Trump said. “He wants nothing more than for this country to prosper and he doesn’t waste time playing politics.”
Peoples reported from New York. Price reported from Las Vegas. AP writers Kevin Freking and Zeke Miller in Washington, Dave Bauder in New York and Aamer Madhani in Chicago contributed.