It’s President Trump’s turn, again. After a week of carefully choreographed “surprise” appearances, the commander-in-chief will offer a grand finale Thursday night in his official acceptance of the Republican Party’s re-nomination. It’s a party shaped by the top of the ticket, with more Republicans who say that being a Trump supporter is very important to their political identity (58%) than say being a Republican is (51%) according to a CBS News Battleground Tracker poll released this week.
The fourth and final night of the Republican National Convention comes at a crisis point for this country, reports CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga. Hurricane Laura’s category 4 storm surge has left a path of destruction in Louisiana; civil unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man; wildfires burn in California and the U.S. coronavirus death toll is approaching 180,000. The president is scheduled to deliver his primetime address from the White House South Lawn, with approximately 1,000 people in attendance. Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, told reporters on Thursday morning that all attendees will be tested for the coronavirus, though it remains unclear exactly when and how screenings will take place.
In Thursday’s speech, Mr. Trump will tout his administration’s coronavirus response, announcing the purchase of 150 million rapid COVID-19 tests as part of a $750 million agreement with Abbott Laboratories, a senior White House official confirms to CBS News White House producer Fin Gomez. In a controversial move this week, the Centers for Disease Control dropped its previous recommendation to test everyone who’s come into close contact with a person infected with COVID-19. And as Hurricane Laura leaves a path of destruction in central and northern Louisiana, the president is expected to discuss hurricane preparations and ask for God’s blessing for the people in its destructive path. Mr. Trump stopped by the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters on Thursday, vowing to visit the storm-damaged region this weekend. The Trump campaign declined to say if Mr. Trump plans to mention Blake, who his attorney says was left paralyzed from the waist down following the shooting, in his speech on Thursday. Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told reporters on Thursday afternoon that the president will address the “unrest” in Kenosha and suggest the reaction to police shootings “cannot escalate violence.”
In an excerpt released by the campaign previewing his speech, Mr. Trump plans to say “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.” Ivanka Trump, senior White House adviser, will introduce her father on stage, speaking to her personal experience working alongside him in the White House. Other speakers include Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is a personal confidante to Mr. Trump.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
Senator Kamala Harris on Thursday vowed to stand with the protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as many in the country reel from the police shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, in Wisconsin on Sunday. CBS News campaign reporters Tim Perry and Bo Erickson report that Harris, in her first solo speech as the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate, acknowledged that people are “rightfully angry and exhausted.” Harris said. “We also see pain, hurt, and destruction in the aftermath of yet another Black man shot by police. Jacob Blake, shot seven times in the back in broad daylight in front of his three young sons.” She added, “After the murders of Breonna and George and Ahmaud and so many others, it’s no wonder people are taking to the streets. And I support them.” The Democratic vice presidential nominee saved her sharpest attacks for Mr. Trump, accusing him of having a “a reckless disregard” for the American people as the country experiences racial unrest in Wisconsin, the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters. Harris said, “Donald Trump has failed at the most basic and important job of a president of the United States: he failed to protect the American people – plain and simple.”
Harris delivered her remarks in front of a socially distant press corps at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Biden-Harris campaign framed the speech as the marque Democratic pre-rebuttal on the final day of the GOP convention. Joe Biden also joined in on the action, making impromptu cable news television appearances throughout the day from his beach house in Delaware. Biden appeared to support the ongoing strikes from professional sports teams in an effort to affect change toward racial justice. “What Trump knows and he won’t acknowledge is that a lot of these men and women they’ve had brothers, sisters, husbands, wives who have been victimized just because of their color. Just because of their color,” Biden said on CNN. “These aren’t people who in fact are out there just trying – they don’t need any more attention – they are sick and tired. They are sick and tired.”
Wisconsin Lutheran College announced today that after “escalating events in Kenosha,” the school decided to cancel Vice President Mike Pence as Saturday’s commencement speaker, according to CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar. The college will instead present Reverend Mark Jeske of St. Marcus Lutheran Church as the new commencement speaker. WLC is near Milwaukee and about 45 miles away from Kenosha. The school said its Board of Regents and the College’s Administration came to the decision “after further review and careful consideration” of the events in Kenosha following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. In a statement to CBS News, Pence’s press secretary Devin O’Malley said the vice president “understands and supports” the school’s “decision to prioritize the safety and well-being of their students.” O’Malley added that Pence “wishes the students well as they celebrate the accomplishment of graduating from college and as they embark on their next journey.” Last night during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Pence didn’t mention the shooting of Mr. Blake and barely referenced Kenosha. “President Trump and I will always support the right of Americans to peaceful protest, but rioting and looting is not peaceful protests,” Pence said. “The violence must stop – whether in Minneapolis, Portland, or Kenosha,” Pence added. On Friday, Pence will travel to Duluth, Minnesota, where he is expected to deliver remarks at a “Workers for Trump” event.
Republican Voters Against Trump has released a new ad juxtaposing the words of then-presidential candidate John McCain in 2008 with Mr. Trump’s, coming amid news that more than 100 former McCain aides are endorsing Biden and just days after Arizona Republicans marked their former senator’s death. Defending Democracy Together, the group behind Republican Voters Against Trump, said their ad will appear online and on Fox News in Arizona, a battleground state. CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin says their past spending in Arizona’s presidential race has so far been comparatively small, per Kantar/CMAG data, totaling a mere $139,320 behind colossal TV and radio buys from pro-Biden PACs like Priorities USA Action (more than $2.9 million) or Unite the Country (close to $1.3 million). “These are unusual times, and this is not an easy decision for Republicans to make. Many of us disagree with the positions espoused by the Democratic ticket, but we are heartened by Joe Biden’s history of bipartisanship,” said McCain’s former aides in the letter announcing their endorsement. Other former staff for past GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and former President Bush also publicly backed Biden on Thursday.
As Republicans prepare for the final night of the RNC, Florida Republican leaders anticipate a positive message from Mr. Trump, reports CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell. Republican Party of Florida Chairman Joe Gruters, who offered the second re-nomination speech for the president in Charlotte on Monday and will be attending the president’s speech at the White House this evening, said he expects the president to detail his vision for the country in his remarks this evening. “I just expect more of the same, just the positive outlook, and [for] him to articulate his vision for America as he starts the great American come back and brings us back economically.”
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel are reviewing a robocall received by a Detroit resident that allegedly uses “racially-charged stereotypes to deter voting by mail.” According to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster, the call claims that people who vote by mail will be “tricked” into giving “private information” that would allow police departments to “track down old warrants,” help credit card companies “collect outstanding debt” and give the CDC information to “track people for mandatory vaccines.” None of that is true. “This is an unconscionable, indefensible, blatant attempt to lie to citizens about their right to vote,” Benson said in a statement, saying the call “preys on voters’ fear and mistrust of the criminal justice system.” Benson added, “the Attorney General and I will use every tool at our disposal to dispel this false rhetoric and seek justice on behalf of every voter who was targeted and harmed by this vicious attempt at voter suppression.” The caller claims to be associated with Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl, two conservative operatives who Benson describes as having “a known reputation for spreading misinformation.” However, according to the press release, “the source of the call is still unknown.” Wohl told The Daily Beast he was “not aware of” any robocalls and Burkman told the Beast “we have no connection to any such robocalls.” Nessel, Michigan’s Attorney General, said in a statement, “This robocall is fraught with scare tactics designed to intimidate Black voters – and we are already working hard to find the bad actors behind this effort.”
Biden’s campaign has released a statement denouncing “misleading claims” from Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer at the Republican National Convention this week, accusing Lizer of touting “Donald Trump’s recent attempts to paper over his failed leadership with Native communities.” CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin reports Lizer had endorsed Mr. Trump in a video from New Mexico citing a litany of moves by the administration to support tribes, including delivering “the largest financial funding package ever to Indian Country.” But Biden’s campaign has outlined its own list of grievances over the president’s policies toward Native Americans, including CARES Act funds that were withheld from tribal governments long after the president signed the relief package. Democrats also point to the GOP’s initial coronavirus relief proposal, which omitted direct funding for tribal governments. “It is a change to see that the White House is touting funding for Tribes that they and Republican leadership fought tooth and nail against during CARES Act negotiations, and that we Democrats had to fight to deliver,” Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, had said in a May statement over the delayed relief money.
CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that a 16-year-old student who was active in the Biden campaign’s South Carolina team died Tuesday night, according to local news reports. Amari President was a student at Ashley Ridge High School in Summerville, South Carolina, and, according to Mitchell, a familiar face to those who covered political events in the state throughout the primary season. In October, President told CBS News that even though he wouldn’t be old enough to vote in November, he thought it was important to be a part of the political process and was excited to be supporting former Biden. In a tweet Wednesday, Biden sent his regards to President’s loved ones. “Amari was 16, not old enough to vote, but that didn’t stop him from helping change the course of history,” said Biden in the tweet. “He brought his infectious passion and light to our campaign every day — and made us all better in the process. Jill and I are keeping his loved ones in our prayers.” Paige Hill, who served as the South Carolina Communications Director for the Biden campaign during the primary, said President was the heart of their volunteer team in South Carolina. “Amari President was such an incredible young man and we never wasted a moment to tell him we couldn’t wait to be working for him one day,” said Hill in a tweet. “Please pray with us today and for his sweet family.”
UP FOR DEBATE
CHANGE OF PLANS?
In a Thursday morning presser, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said there shouldn’t be any presidential debates, saying Biden shouldn’t “legitimize” a conversation with Trump, reports CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. “I do not think that the President of the United States has purported himself in the way that has any association with truth. Evidence data and facts,” she said. “I don’t think that he should dignify that conversation with Donald Trump.” When asked about it on MSNBC, Biden said as long as the debate commission “continues on the straight and narrow, I’m going to debate him.” He added that he would be a fact checker on the floor, and that some have recommended him to not debate Trump unless there would be a general fact checker. “Everyone knows this man has a somewhat pathological tendency to not tell the truth,” he added.
IN THE HOUSE
Out of all the incumbent House members speaking at the Republican National Convention this week, Congressmen Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey may be facing the tightest race, reports CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. At the end of 2019, Van Drew switched parties during the impeachment process– and is now facing Democrat Amy Kennedy in the general election. In an op-ed preview of his message tonight, Van Drew wrote about his decision to leave the Democratic party, calling it a “mob that drives policy decisions with the goal of starting over with a new system of governance.” His opponent, Kennedy, launched an online ad Thursday hitting Van Drew on his party switch. Mr. Trump won this district by 4 points in 2016.
Nancy Mace, a Republican candidate running in South Carolina’s 1st district, another Trump-won district, spoke to CBSN’s Elaine Quijano Wednesday about the convention and her recovery from COVID-19. When asked about what she wants to hear from the president on Thursday, Navarro reports that Mace said “we need to offer hope to the American people…it’s not about Nancy Mace running for Congress– it really should be about the American people and our future.”
AND IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…
More from our CBS News Battleground Tracker poll…