Vice President Mike Pence warned November’s election is about “whether America remains America” as Republicans used the third night of the nominating convention to push back on notions that Donald Trump disparages women and harbours racist views.
The Republican National Convention started rather flat, with a series of speeches that did little but defend the president in sometimes-personal but sometimes-banal ways. They made statements that contradicted his administration’s record and compared him to former presidents like Abraham Lincoln, suggesting it is difficult to see where the 16th chief executive’s record on race ends that of the 45th’s begins.
“The choice in this election has never been clearer and the stakes have never been higher,” Mr Pence said at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, where Mr Trump made a surprise appearance at the conclusion of his No. 2’s remarks. “Last week, Joe Biden said democracy is on the ballot, but the truth is … our economic recovery is on the ballot, law and order is on the ballot. But so are things far more fundamental and foundational to our country.
“It’s not so much whether America will be more conservative or more liberal, more Republican or more Democrat. The choice in this election is whether America remains America,” the VP said, also falsely claiming of the coronavirus: “We are stopping the spread.”
With his boss and running mate looking on from backstage, Mr Pence also went directly after former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for president.
“President Trump and I know the men and women that put on the uniform of law enforcement are the best of us. They put their lives on the line every day,” he said. “The American people know we don’t have to choose between supporting law enforcement, and standing with African-American neighbours to improve the quality of life in our cities and towns.”
Republicans again opted against acknowledging the shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man, by a white police officer. Instead, they criticised Democratic mayors and state officials for allegedly hindering police departments. “The violence and bloodshed we are seeing … isn’t happening by chance. It’s the direct result of refusing to allow law enforcement to protect our communities,” said Michael McHale, now with the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority Police Department. He contended that Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, as California state attorney general, cut police funding and training “and made our streets even more dangerous than they already are”.
Mr Pence also did not directly acknowledge the shooting of Mr Blake, instead suggesting there would be even more violence under a Biden administration.
“Joe Biden says America is systemically racist. And that law enforcement in America has a quote, ‘implicit bias’ against minorities,” the VP said. “And when asked whether he’d support cutting funding to law enforcement, and he replied, ‘Yes, absolutely.’ The hard truth is … you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”
Other speakers hailed the president as pro-woman, pro-life and pro-pre-existing conditions. The campaign and Republican National Committee appeared to feel a need to paint him as all three since he has said disparaging things about women and tried to dismantle part of the Affordable Care Act that protected those medical ailments. Just about every speaker used three words Mr Trump does daily: “far left” and “radical” when talking about Democrats.
As the vice president delivered the night’s keynote address, cable news chyrons for most of the day painted a bleak picture of the state of the country. They, at once, gave details of ongoing violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin, after a black man was shot and paralysed by a white police officer; two hurricanes barrelling towards the Gulf Coast; and the usual political division and mud-slinging.
Even before Republicans kicked off the third night of their nominating event, one of their general election foes took umbrage with the tone of the convention. “Watching the Republican convention this week we’ve seen what they have to offer,” Senator Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee said. “It’s been about darkness and division and clearly no plan to lead our country.”
The president and vice president appeared on the convention’s third night on a day they received a mixed bag of news from new polls, with one survey showing the 2020 race narrowing in key battleground states.
On the negative side for the Trump-Pence campaign: two new polls showed Mr Trump garnering the support of under 40 per cent of voters. A HarrisX survey put Mr Biden up 47-38, and an Ispos poll put the former VP up 44-37. Another, from YouGov, gave Mr Biden a 9-point lead: 50-41.
But on the positive side, a Change Research survey of a list of swing states shows the race narrowing in the places that will decide the election. Mr Trump has pulled within 5 points in Wisconsin, 3 points in Pennsylvania, 3 points in Florida, and 2 points in Arizona. Mr Biden now leads by one point in North Carolina, where he and the president have traded the lead in a number of surveys – suggesting a dead heat there.
The same survey showed the race remaining a 6-point Biden advantage in Michigan.
The Trump-Pence ticket won each of those states in 2016.
‘Who do you trust’?
The GOP duo headlined their re-election convention’s third of four nights in prime time hours after the president made, without supporting evidence, a claim that Mr Biden was drugged during the final Democratic debate when he went one-on-one with Senator Bernie Sanders.
“Nobody thought that he was even going to win,” Mr Trump told the Washington Examiner earlier in the day. “Because his debate performances were so bad. Frankly, his best performance was against Bernie.
“We’re going to call for a drug test, by the way, because his best performance was against Bernie. It wasn’t that he was Winston Churchill because he wasn’t, but it was a normal, boring debate,” he added. “You know, nothing amazing happened. And we are going to call for a drug test because there’s no way – you can’t do that.”
Hours later, Mr Pence, like Republicans have since Mr Biden secured the Democratic nomination, tried linking the former VP to his final party debate foe, the party’s progressive standard-bearer.
“Bernie Sanders did tell his followers that Joe Biden would be the most liberal president of modern times, and confirmed that, quote, ‘Many of the ideas we fought for, that just a few years ago were considered radical, are now mainstream,” Mr Pence said, adding with the kind of fawning praise for the president that has dominated the week: “On November 3rd, ask yourself: Who do you trust to rebuild this economy? A career politician who presided over the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression? Or a proven leader who created the greatest economy in the world?”