President Donald Trump’s GOP semi-virtual COVID-19 pandemic convention kicks off Monday with the president expected to excoriate Democratic-run cities and states, especially Chicago, as he makes the case for a second term.
“Chicago and Illinois will be front and center, whether it’s implicitly or explicitly in the course of our convention,” Richard Porter, a Republican National Committeeman from Illinois, told the Chicago Sun-Times on Sunday.
Trump, the former reality show star who believes he is his own best spokesman, is expected to speak on all four days, upending a tradition that a nominee is not fully heard from until the acceptance speech.
Democrats delivered the presidential and vice presidential nominations to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris last week at a virtual convention with no in-person audience. The “show” was sprinkled with prepackaged videos and a mix of recorded and live speeches. Democrats pulled the plug on Milwaukee in late June.
Trump yanked most of the convention from Charlotte, North Carolina, and relocated to Jacksonville, Florida, to avoid crowd restrictions only to scratch Florida at the end of July as coronavirus infections surged.
A few hundred GOP party officials from across the nation have been meeting in person in Charlotte for pre-convention party business: from Illinois, that’s Porter; Illinois Republican Party Chair Tim Schneider; and Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts, who oversees fundraising for Trump’s reelection campaign. Illinois National Committeewoman Demetra DeMonte stayed home because she was exposed to the coronavirus.
The roll call to nominate Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will be Monday in Charlotte, with proceedings starting at 8 a.m. Chicago time. Trump lands in Charlotte in the morning.
Last week, Porter and Schneider recorded a 15-second video casting Illinois’ votes from the scenic rooftop restaurant at the Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago.
Starting Tuesday, much of the action jumps to Washington — at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium and at the White House, where Trump accepts the nomination Thursday with a crowd of about 1,000 on the South Lawn.
The 2020 Trump/Biden contest is over a few persuadable voters in a handful of swing states. Biden has a lock on Illinois, with the Land of Lincoln preferring Democrats for president since 1992.
Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Ill., a Trump Illinois co-chair, told the Sun-Times on Sunday, at the convention, “The spotlight is on the president and our Republican party to lay out an agenda, a narrative, a roadmap on what we’re going to do for those people that are undecided,” those “middle of the road voters, independents, suburban moms, blue collar Democrats. They’re going to be watching this week” and “it is really, really important that the President lays out an optimistic agenda for the next four years.”
LaHood is the son of former Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., who served as a Transportation Secretary in President Barack Obama’s Democratic administration. The senior LaHood is backing Biden. They talk every day. Said Darin LaHood, “We have differing opinions on who should be president.”
Trump delegate Aaron Del Mar, the Palatine Township Republican Committeeman, said “We need to make a stark contrast in detail on what we’re going to do to move this economy forward in this pandemic” at the convention.
Schneider said the convention needs to be “uplifting,” showcasing Trump’s economic polices “that have changed people’s lives” with a “focus, really, on the positive things” Trump has done.
Ricketts told the Sun-Times the Democratic convention presented a “bleak view of the future. I think the Republican convention is going to be more about a bright future with a growing economy and I guess ending in a happier place.”
The 2020 White House battle plays out as the nation is struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic triggering the worse health and economic crises in our lifetimes and with the George Floyd murder sparking a new movement to confront institutional racism and police brutality.
A part of Trump’s second term law and order agenda - released Sunday - deals with policing issues of central importance to Chicago: Trump will call for more police hiring; prosecution of drive-by shootings as “Acts of Domestic Terrorism” and ending cashless bail.
Trump already portrays Democrats as anti-police with cities and states with Democratic leaders — including Chicago and Illinois — poorly governed by “radical socialists.”
Trump has been targeting Chicago since his 2016 run. In his 2016 convention speech Trump highlighted killings in Chicago, earning Obama boos as Trump noted the shootings were in “the president’s hometown.” Chicago continues to struggle with gun violence and killings
In a preview of sorts, Trump said last week, “If you want a vision of your life under the Biden presidency, think of the smoldering ruins in Minneapolis, the violent anarchy of Portland, the blood-stained sidewalks of Chicago.”
Happening right now, on Trump’s — not Biden’s — watch.