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Time for the Republican National Convention
August 24, 2020  | By Mike Hughes

Now we're at the mid-point of the political-convention season.

That's when one party starts its event, and the other celebrates what it considers a triumph. That's always the case, Rick Santorum said at a recent press session. "You always come out of the convention thinking it was great," he said. "You always leave on a high," especially if you were one of the speakers. "Everyone loves to hear their voice."

He's seen that from several sides, as a two-term senator from Pennsylvania, as runner-up (to Mitt Romney) for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, and now as a CNN commentator. At the press session, several CNN people pondered what had happened in the Democratic convention and what's ahead for the Republicans this week.

And yes, commentators with Democratic roots were quite pleased. With reservations. "It's been a splendid week," said David Axelrod. "But I don't think the economy should be a 10-minute blip."

When he was chief strategist for the Barack Obama campaigns, Axelrod said, the emphasis was firmly on the economy. And at this convention?

Joe Biden briefly talked about jobs-creation as it relates to climate change (jobs in alternative energy) and economic recovery (jobs rebuilding the infrastructure). But the convention kept returning to COVID and, especially, to praising Biden's character.

"That's not how Donald Trump won" in 2016, Santorum said. "Very few people said anything good about him, including myself."

This time, the attacks at the Democratic convention were unrelenting. David Chalian, CNN's political director, points to "a sort of astounding one-two punch": One night, Michelle Obama; another, Barack Obama, who described his successor, Chalian said, "in a way no former president has ever done."

That sets up what the Republicans need to do, Santorum said. If this is "a referendum on Donald Trump," they lose; they must "make this a two-person race, not a one-person."

In short, go after Biden. As one commentator put it: "He'll be a piñata from day one."

The Republican National Committee has announced that there will be no platform for the convention. As the party for the incumbent, they will spend most of the time simply supporting President Trump.

Van Jones, a CNN correspondent (and former Obama advisor), had another prediction about Republican convention-organizers: Viewers will be surprised, he said, "to see just how diverse they make the Republicans look."

That seemed true as the names of some of the speakers surfaced. Among the first five names to appear, only one (Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader) is a white male. Others are senators Tim Scott (South Dakota) and Joni Ernst (Iowa), Gov. Kristi Noem (South Dakota), and Nikki Haley, the former United Nations ambassador.

There will also be lots of Trump. Breaking tradition (something he does quite often), he reportedly will show up on each of the four nights. He'll give his nomination acceptance speech Thursday, with his wife Melania and adult children speaking on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Mike Pence will accept the vice-presidential nomination from Fort McHenry, where the Star-Spangled Banner was born.

There will also be some non-politicians – the St. Louis couple who brandished guns in front of Black Lives Matter protesters, the widow of a retired policeman who was killed during those protests, a Montana coffeeshop owner who received a COVID-19 relief loan, the father of one of the Parkland school shooting victims, and the parents of Kayla Mueller, the American humanitarian worker who died after 18 months of ISIS captivity in Syria.

The Republican National Convention coverage, as with the Democrats, begins each evening at 8 p.m. ET on PBS, 10 p.m. ET on ABC, CBS, and NBC, and all day on cable news channels.

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