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Takeaways from the Republican National Convention

Trump's speech at RNC
Trump casts election in stark terms in lengthy RNC acceptance speech 01:11:22

The Republican National Convention concluded Thursday night with a packed crowd at the White House and fireworks set against the Washington Monument, closing out a week marked by dire warnings about the future of the country if Joe Biden is elected in November and promises for what a second term with President Trump would hold.

The four-day event, which kicked off Monday, culminated with Mr. Trump's address accepting the GOP presidential nomination, an event that brought more than 1,500 of his supporters, former White House officials and Republican lawmakers to the South Lawn of the White House.

The convention underwent several changes as the coronavirus pandemic roiled the 2020 election, beginning with plans for a large-scale event in Charlotte, North Carolina, then an expansion to include Jacksonville, Florida, followed by a cancellation of major events in both cities as COVID cases spiked. In the end, official party business was carried out in Charlotte, where Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were formally nominated Monday.

Speeches throughout the week, many of which were pre-recorded, sought to paint a dark picture of America's future should Biden defeat Mr. Trump in November, while casting the president as vital to protecting the principles the country was founded upon and the "American way of life."

Here are the biggest takeaways from the Republican National Convention.

Coronavirus in the rearview

The coronavirus pandemic that has crippled the U.S. economy and claimed the lives of more than 180,000 people in the U.S. was seldom mentioned across the convention's four nights of speeches, and was characterized in some instances as a challenge the nation has already been surmounted.

In remarks delivered Tuesday, Larry Kudlow, Mr. Trump's chief economic adviser, suggested the coronavirus has been defeated.

"It was awful," Kudlow said in remarks. "Health and economic impacts were tragic. Hardship and heartbreak were everywhere. But presidential leadership came swiftly and effectively with an extraordinary rescue for health and safety to successfully fight the COVID virus."

Republicans also sought to recast the president's handling of the coronavirus as a success, while Trump himself extolled his administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic, calling it the "largest national mobilization since World War II."

The Republican National Convention went through several iterations due to health concerns attributed to the pandemic and ultimately was scaled down. Most speeches were pre-recorded and delivered from the Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C., but Mr. Trump's address garnered the attendance of more than 1,500, who took seats close to one another on the South Lawn.

Not all attendees wore masks and not all were tested for the coronavirus, though the Trump campaign said it was complying with federal and local guidelines.

Convention events set against the backdrop of the White House

Sprinkled throughout the four-day convention were events during which Mr. Trump used the office of the presidency and the backdrop of the White House to further his political endeavors.

On Tuesday, the second night of the convention, the president hosted a naturalization ceremony at the White House, with acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf administering the oath of allegiance to five new citizens.

That same night, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered remarks in a pre-recorded address from Jerusalem, during which he praised Mr. Trump' foreign policy record. Pompeo is on a multi-day swing through the Middle East.

Both events raised questions of possible violations of the Hatch Act, which governs the political activity of executive branch employees.

Capping off the convention, Mr. Trump delivered his speech accepting the GOP presidential nomination. At the conclusion of his remarks, which stretched over an hour, a fireworks display that formed "Trump" and "2020" was launched around the Washington Monument, and an opera singer serenaded attendees from the White House balcony.

Trump family members prominently featured

Members of Mr. Trump's family addressed voters on each of the convention's four nights.

On Monday, Donald Trump Jr., Mr. Trump's oldest son, kicked off remarks for the Trump family and was joined on the schedule of speakers by his girlfriend, former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle.

On Tuesday, Tiffany Trump, the president's youngest daughter, and Eric Trump, his son, made their pitch to voters for why their father should be elected to a second term. First lady Melania Trump closed out the second night of the convention with a speech from the Rose Garden.

On Wednesday, Lara Trump, Eric Trump's wife and the president's daughter-in-law, made her case to Americans for Mr. Trump's reelection.

On Thursday, Ivanka Trump, the older of the president's children and a senior adviser at the White House, introduced Mr. Trump before he delivered his speech accepting the GOP nomination. All of the president's children, including his youngest son, Barron, joined Mr. Trump and first lady Melania Trump on stage at the end of his address.

Casting a vote for Joe Biden as a vote for "the Squad" and Nancy Pelosi

A favorite line throughout the convention was the characterization of Biden as a "Trojan horse" for the progressive wing of the Democratic party. 

In his acceptance speech Thursday, the president called his Democratic rival a "Trojan horse for socialism."

"He takes his marching orders from liberal hypocrites who drive their cities into the ground while fleeing far from the scene of the wreckage," Mr. Trump said of Biden.

On Wednesday, Pence, too, called Biden "nothing more than a Trojan horse for the radical left."

Congressman Matt Gaetz laid the groundwork for the attack on the former vice president during his remarks on the first night of the convention and said casting a vote for Biden would effectively be handing power to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York. Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley echoed the line.

"Last time, Joe's boss was Obama," Haley said. "This time, it would be Pelosi, Sanders, and the Squad. Their vision for America is socialism. And we know that socialism has failed everywhere."

Passing references to protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin

Casting a shadow over the convention was the nightly protests that have taken place in Kenosha in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, by police.

Pence and Mr. Trump each referenced the Wisconsin city by name, but not in marking the shooting. Instead, they cited Kenosha as an example of the dangers of the Biden presidency, warning that looting, arson and violence would be rampant if he is elected.

"What we can never have in America and must never allow is mob rule," Mr. Trump said Thursday. "In the strongest possible terms, the Republican Party condemns the rioting, looting, arson and violence we have seen in Democrat-run cities like Kenosha, Minneapolis, Portland, Chicago and New York."

Only Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson mentioned Blake by name.

"Before I begin, I'd like to say that our hearts go out to the Blake family and the other families, who've been impacted by the tragic events in Kenosha," he said. "As Jacob's mother has urged the country, 'Let's use our hearts, our love, and our intelligence to work together, to show the rest of the world how humans are supposed to treat each other. America is great when we behave greatly.'"

Republicans push message of law and order

Against the backdrop of the ongoing unrest in Kenosha, Republicans tried to cast Mr. Trump as the only choice to avoid lawlessness. Hours before the third night of the convention started on Wednesday, Mr. Trump tweeted that he wanted to send in the National Guard to Kenosha. The Department of Justice confirmed federal agents would be sent in to quell protests. 

There were some speakers who emerged from the protests in St. Louis: Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the couple captured in a viral photograph pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters, and Ann Dorn, whose husband was killed outside a pawn shop on June 2 during a violent night in the city. The McCloskeys and Dorn praised Mr. Trump for his reaction to the protests. 

On Wednesday night, Pence said four more years of the Trump administration would bring "law and order on the streets of America for every American of every race and creed and color."

Ahead of Mr. Trump's speech on Thursday, New York's police union president Pat Lynch accused Democratic politicians of having "surrendered our streets and institutions." Citing the spate of recent crime in New York City, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani warned "don't let Democrats do to America what they have done to New York." 

Mr. Trump stressed that the GOP "in the strongest possible terms" condemns the looting, arson and violence that has occurred in Wisconsin and elsewhere, and issued a forceful denunciation of the violence in major U.S. cities, including Portland, where he deployed federal law enforcement this summer, Chicago and New York. 

"As long as I am president, I will defend the absolute right of every American citizen to live in security, dignity and peace," he said.

Mr. Trump attempted to portray a grim landscape of the country if Biden wins in November, claiming that if he loses reelection and Democrats win control of both chambers of Congress, "they will apply their disastrous policies to every city, town and suburb in America."

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