(Headline USA) The Republican Party formally nominated President Donald Trump for a second term in the White House Monday, one of the first acts of a GOP convention that has been dramatically scaled down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The impact of the virus was evident as proceedings began in Charlotte. Instead of the thousands of people who were expected to converge on this city for a week-long extravaganza, just 336 delegates participated in a roll-call vote from a Charlotte Convention Center ballroom.
The president addressed delegates in person, despite earlier reports that he wouldn’t appear in Charlotte, following the vote.
“Bad things happened last time with the spying on our campaign … and this time they’re trying to do it with the whole Post Office scam … be very careful and watch it very carefully,” Trump said. “We have to win. This is the most important election in the history of our country.”
Earlier, the convention renominated Vice President Mike Pence, and he thanked the delegates in person.
“The choice in this election has never been clearer and the stakes have never been higher,” Pence said. “We’re going to make American great again. Again.”
Many of the usual trappings of a convention were present on Monday, including signs designating each state and gift bags with Republican swag. But chairs on the ballroom floor were arranged with lots of space between them and convention organizers told participants to wear masks, though adherence to the rule was uneven.
“We are obviously disappointed we could not hold this event in the same way we had originally planned,” GOP Chair Ronna McDaniel said as she began the proceedings while thanking Charlotte for allowing the convention to move forward in its truncated form.
The fact an in-person meeting was held at all marked a sharp contrast with Democrats.
Last week, the Democrats created a roll call via video montage with officials and others from states across the country. The Republicans spoke from the ballroom floor.
After Trump’s renomination, much of the action is shifting to Washington, where Republicans will spend the week trying to convince the American people that the president deserves a second term.
Aides want the convention to present the election as a choice between his vision for America’s future and the one presented by Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
McDaniel highlighted that contrast, describing Biden’s embrace of the radical left agenda and pushing back on Democrats’ efforts to demonstrate Biden’s empathy and kindness.
“The truth is there’s only one person who has empathized with everyday Americans and actually been fighting for them every single day over the past four years, and that’s President Donald J. Trump,” she said.
For both sides, it’s an unconventional convention year.
The parties’ election year gatherings are typically massive events, drawing thousands of delegates, party leaders, donors, journalists and political junkies for a week of speeches, parties and after-parties that inject hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economy and deliver a multiday infomercial for the nominee.
The coronavirus has changed all that, as much as Trump has resisted. Just 336 delegates — six from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories — have been invited to cast proxy votes on behalf of the more than 2,500 regular delegates. And stringent safety measures have been put in place guided by a 42-page health and safety plan developed by a hired doctor.
Attendees were asked to practice enhanced social distancing and get tested prior to travel, fill out a pre-travel health questionnaire and participate in a daily symptom tracker. They’re also being tested onsite, have been asked to maintain a 6-foot distance from other people and to use face coverings as a condition of participation. The RNC has also committed to contacting every participant five, 14 and 21 days after the event to check on potential symptoms.
The event had been met with protests, and police have made several arrests.
After the Charlotte kickoff, most of the GOP convention will feature remarks from well-known Trump supporters, including members of the Trump family, outspoken conservatives and everyday Americans who campaign officials say have been helped by Trump’s policies.
First lady Melania Trump will speak Tuesday from the Rose Garden, Pence will appear from Fort McHenry in Baltimore on Wednesday and Trump will deliver his marquee acceptance speech on Thursday from the South Lawn before a crowd of supporters.
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.