President Trump’s eldest son, six hostages freed during his administration, two of his most fervent supporters in Congress, a Black state lawmaker in Georgia, and the St. Louis homeowners who made national headlines by wielding firearms at protesters outside their home demonstrating systemic racism are the biggest draws on the first night of the Republican National Convention.
Also grabbing the spotlight on inaugural evening will be two political stars from South Carolina who may have national ambitions of their own in 2024: former ambassador to the United Nations and former governor Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott.
But the president will never stray too far from the spotlight during the convention – which is a 4-day celebration of Trump and a 4-day condemnation of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The president is expected to appear Monday night with frontline workers in the battle against the coronavirus and with six Americans held hostage in Iran, Syria, and Venezuela who were freed during his tenure in the White House.
Those hostages, Fox News is told, includes Michael White, a U.S. Navy veteran who was arrested while visiting his girlfriend in Iran; Sam Goodwin, a world traveler who was taken into custody for failure to have a visa in 2019; Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was arrested in 2016 by Turkey; Joshua and Tamara Holt, who were detained in Venezuela shortly after their wedding and accused of stockpiling weapons; and Pastor Bryan Nerran, who was arrested by the Indian government for having $40,000 without declaring it.
But Trump didn’t wait until the Republican convention’s kick off prime time session to stoke the flames.
Earlier Monday, the president – speaking to Republican Party officials and delegates gathered in Charlotte, North Carolina to formally re-nominate Trump and Vice President Mike Pence – used his nearly hour long speech to raise doubts about the integrity of November’s general election. And he peppered his defiant and incendiary comments with blasts against efforts to increase voting my mail during the coronavirus pandemic and accusations that the Democrats are “using COVID to steal our election.”
The president, who took to the stage amid chants of “four more years” from his supporters, immediately began stirring the pot by saying “if you want to really drive them crazy, you say 12 more years.”
Trailing Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in the latest national and key general election battleground state polls, Trump is hoping to use this week’s 4-day confab to reset his campaign with some absentee and early in-person voting getting underway in a month the Election Day in November just over 2 months away.
The president’s comments in Charlotte, which was originally planned to host the entire convention, were a prelude to the four nights of prime time programming.
The theme of the convention’s first night is focused around the “Land of Promise” – and that theme’s expected to be emphasized by Donald Trump Jr. The president’s oldest son, who has become a top Republican fundraiser and his father’s most-requested campaign surrogate as he throws out red meat for Trump’s base, is expected to tout the strong economy built by the president. According to excerpts released by Trump re-election campaign, the president’s son will say “Trump’s America is a land of opportunity–a place of promise.”
Coming off last week’s Democratic convention, which showcased diversity, the Republicans are hoping to counter with a diverse list of their own.
Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants will spotlight how she and the president “stood up for America” on the world stage at the United Nations and how the former vice president and the Democrats are “still blaming America first.”
Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, is expected to showcase his own experience with the American dream, how Trump has taken historic steps for Black Americans “to clean up Joe Biden’s mess,” and how the Democrats are campaigning on a “cultural revolution” for a “fundamentally different America.”
And Vernon Jones, a Black state lawmaker from Georgia, will tout that “when President Trump took office, he changed everything. He delivered historic funding to HBCUs. And he guaranteed it for 10 years. That gave our HBCUs stability–the chance to grow and produce the next generation of black leaders.”
The evening will also include appearances from two other African Americans – one well known and the other not nearly as prominent. Heisman Trophy winner and football star Herschel Walker will speak to his “deep, personal friendship” with the president.
And Kim Klacik, a Black Republican running to represent Baltimore in Congress, will stress that Trump’s leadership is “bringing the American spirit to life for all Americans.”
Patricia and Mark McCloskey, the couple who grabbed attention this summer as they aimed their firearms at a group of protesters advocating police reforms who were walking along their neighborhood’s private streets, will also speak. Mark McCloskey has maintained that he was scared for his life and brandishing a weapon to protect his home and wife, and the White House has defended the couple’s actions on multiple occasions.
The couple will charge that “Democrats no longer view the government’s job as protecting honest citizens from criminals, but rather protecting criminals from honest citizens.”
And as part of the Trump campaign’s efforts to woo suburban voters who fled the GOP in the 2018 midterm elections, the McCloskeys will warn that “these are the policies that are coming to a neighborhood near you. So make no mistake: No matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America.”
Also speaking will be House Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, and two of the president’s biggest backers in the chamber, Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Matt Gaetz of Florida.
Fox News’ John Roberts contributed to this report.