WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is plans to tell voters that Democratic rival Joe Biden would pursue the “most extreme set of proposals ever put forward by a major party nominee” when he delivers his acceptance speech Thursday night at the Republican National Convention.
Trump has complained that the Democrats’ message was too dark and pessimistic when they held their own scaled-back convention last week. But excerpts of the president’s prepared remarks suggest he, too, will have plenty of negative things to say, excoriating Biden, who ran a centrist campaign for the Democratic nomination.
“At no time before have voters faced a clearer choice between two parties, two visions, two philosophies or two agendas,” Trump is expected to say. “We have spent the last four years reversing the damage Joe Biden inflicted over the last 47 years.”
Aides said Trump will also make clear that he plans to unite a country that has increasingly shown fractures in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and nationwide protests over police brutality and racial injustice.
”The Republican Party goes forward united, determined and ready to welcome millions of Democrats, independents and anyone who believes in the greatness of America and the righteous heart of the American people,” the president will say, according to excerpts released in advance.
Trump will take the stage on the South Lawn — only the second president to deliver his convention acceptance speech from the White House — convinced that he’s on the verge of righting the ship of his battered campaign. Most polls show him trailing Biden in both battleground states and national polling.
The president’s chief advisers say that Trump has been bolstered by the convention and by crisper messaging on the ongoing pandemic.
“Look, the American people like the president’s platform,” said Jared Kushner, White House senior adviser during an event hosted by Politico. “They like his policies. They want, you know, a president who’s going to be bringing jobs back to America from overseas. They want law and order. They want somebody who can keep their community safe.
Trump’s speech comes one day after Vice President Mike Pence forcefully defended law enforcement but made no mention of the Black Americans killed by police this year as he addressed convention proceedings that unfolded amid new protests against racial injustice following the latest shooting.
Pence argued that Democratic leaders are allowing lawlessness to prevail from coast to coast. He and others described cities wracked by violence, though protests in most locations have been largely peaceful.
“The American people know we don’t have to choose between supporting law enforcement and standing with African American neighbors to improve the quality of life in our cities and towns,” he said. He assailed Democratic presidential nominee Biden for saying there is an “implicit bias” against people of color and “systemic racism” in the U.S.
“The hard truth is … you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America,” Pence said. “Let me be clear: The violence must stop — whether in Minneapolis, Portland or Kenosha.”
Absent from Pence’s 37-minute speech: a direct mention of Jacob Blake, the Black man who was wounded by police on Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin. There was also no reference to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor or other Black people who have been killed by police this year, spurring a new nationwide protest movement.
White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway defended the vice president, noting that the administration has already launched a federal civil rights investigation into the shooting.
“That’s pretty quick action and decisive action,” Conway said.
As their convention nears its conclusion, Republicans are seeking to reconcile their depiction of Trump as a smooth, stable leader with the crises the United States is facing, including the demonstrations, a hurricane battering Texas and Louisiana and a raging pandemic that is killing more than 1,000 Americans a day.
The historic convergence of health, economic, environmental and social emergencies is only increasing the pressure on Trump, as he looks to reshape the contours of his lagging campaign against Biden with Election Day just 10 weeks off and early voting beginning much sooner.
Trump made an unannounced appearance to join Pence after his remarks for a performance of the anthem at Fort McHenry Wednesday night. The president, the vice president and their wives later greeted guests, some of whom were in walkers and stood for the National Anthmem.
Some in the crowd gathered close together to get a glimpse of the Pences and the Trumps in violation of social distancing guidelines. Pence was seen shaking a greeter’s hand.
While the Fort McHenry speech was orchestrated to present a grand scene, earlier portions of the program were lower energy. The show for Americans at home lacked some of the production elements that had made previous nights memorable, including slickly produced videos and surprise announcements, such as an unexpected presidential pardon and a citizenship ceremony.
The convention unfolded after three nights of protests in Kenosha prompted Trump to issue repeated calls for Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to increase the deployment of National Guard troops to help keep the peace. Trump also directed the Department of Justice to send FBI agents and U.S. marshals to the city as reinforcements, a day after a white 17-year-old who had been outspoken in support of police, was accused of killing two protesters and wounding another.
Many of the speakers Wednesday night reinforced Trump’s law-and-order message, warning that electing Biden would lead to violence in cities spilling into the suburbs. The focus on law enforcement continued a weeklong emphasis on motivating his political base — rather than appealing to moderate voters.
An August Fox News poll found that registered voters were somewhat more likely to say they trusted Biden than Trump on handling issues related to policing and criminal justice, 48% to 42%, and significantly more likely to trust Biden than Trump on handling race relations, 53% to 34%. Biden’s advantage on criminal justice issues mirrored his advantage overall.
Associated Press writers Jonathan Lemire and Aamer Madhani contributed.