WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump crossed the threshold of delegates needed to be formally nominated for a second term at the Republican National Convention on Monday, marking an official start to this year’s presidential race and the first major – if symbolic – moment of the party’s meeting this week.
Trump made a surprise visit to the convention shortly after receiving the number of delegates needed for the nod. He started off his remarks with an attack on Democrats and criticism of mail-in ballots.
“This is the most important election in the history of our country,” Trump said. “This is the biggest.”
In contrast to Democrats, who nominated Joe Biden in a virtual roll call from 57 states and territories, Trump chose a more traditional approach: An in-person event in Charlotte, N.C., where delegates are conducting the convention’s official business.
Trump will formally accept the nomination in an address at the White House on Thursday – the marquee event of the convention.
The outcome of the vote was never in question – presidential nominating conventions haven’t been contested for decades and Trump ran virtually unopposed – but the formal roll call is nevertheless a symbolic milestone, an expression of the party’s support.
In a surprise, Vice President Mike Pence, formally nominated earlier Monday, spoke before Trump crossed the threshold of delegates needed for the nomination.
“Today is about four more years,” Pence told the delegates. “This week we will take our case to the American people.”
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Down in battleground polls amid a devastating pandemic and a weak economy, the Republican National Convention hands the president a chance to reset his campaign, define how he would use a second term and land a consistent line of attack against Democratic nominee Joe Biden just as many of the nation’s voters are starting to tune into the race.
Trump and his aides have signaled a desire for an upbeat – and mostly live – four-day performance. The president is expected to appear in some form each of the four nights.
The convention opened Monday morning with various Republicans criticizing Democrats for supporting those who have knelt in protest during the national anthem and for removing the word “God” from their party platform – a longstanding criticism.
Republicans announced Sunday that they would forgo a party platform this year, simply adopting Trump’s campaign pledges as their own.
A pre-meeting prayer at the RNC included criticism of Catholics who support abortion rights.
The crowd in Charlotte greeted Trump with cries like “Oklahoma loves you, Mr. President!” and “Four More Years.”
“If you really want to drive them crazy, say 12 more years,” Trump said.
Trump started off by warning supporters to be wary of election chicanery, saying “bad things happened last time” and that could happen again this year. While extolling the stock market and improving jobs numbers, Trump also said a Biden election would lead to economic disaster.
Trump is expected to thank the delegates who nominated him Monday and travel to Asheville, N.C., to appear with daughter Ivanka Trump at an event to highlight an administration food delivery program. During his flight, Trump complained on Twitter that the cable networks were not carrying the roll call (the networks also did not air pre-evening events for the Democratic convention).
“Incredible that @CNN & MSDNC aren’t covering the Roll Call of States. Fake News!” Trump posted on Twitter. “This is what the Republican Party is up against.”
The major addresses of the virtual convention – first set for Charlotte and then Jacksonville, Fla., but pulled from both cities because of the coronavirus – starts Monday night with speeches by lawmakers, activists and members of Trump’s family.