The State: of the Republican Convention After Day 1

News / The State August 25, 2020

Through a series of articles we call The State, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Advocacy and Political Affairs team is providing analysis related to "the state of" various aspects of the 2020 campaign season, including the race for the White House and key elections around the country.

Cody Lyon:   On the first day of the Republican National Convention, President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence accepted their nominations in person, addressing the more than 300 delegates in North Carolina.

In the evening, President Trump and his allies presented a dichotomic view of the candidate and the Republicans’ vision of America, with fiery, passionate and fearful comments juxtaposed with the personal, empathic recollections and interactions of Donald Trump.

On the former, the Republicans shared a vision of a Democratic-led government, duly elected, that would tear apart the foundation of American society.  On a theme entitled “Land of Promise,” viewers were left with a bleak vision of the country’s future under a Biden administration.

And in the latter, what grabbed my attention was the bond between Herschel Walker and Donald Trump.  Walker described a 37-year friendship that began over their mutual love for football and has remained strong through business ventures and personal ties.  As a Georgian, University of Georgia graduate and someone who watched Walker wear a red jersey and silver britches, I valued this personal perspective. 

Randy Dwyer:  Similar to the Democratic Convention’s kickoff, on day one of the Republican Convention, the party attempted to draw clear lines between the two candidates and emphasize what’s at stake for the voters by using personal stories and policy impacts. Both parties are presenting the 2020 presidential election as an election for the soul of America. The GOP speakers covered a lot of ground, from doom and gloom to tax reform, business growth and an open-door for all minorities. The messaging was multi-themed and set the stage for the next three evenings. If this election is about Trump, as everyone says it is, then you’ll find him present each evening with cameos talking about his administration’s achievements and vignettes revealing more of his personal side. All this is to tell the faithful – as well as the few undecided voters -- he’s the only choice in this election.

Mike Sistak: The focus of the Trump campaign has, in my estimation, been a strategy to turn out the president’s base and not necessarily swing any voters. Day one of the Republican National Convention reflected that strategy. The fire and brimstone messaging from nearly every speaker wasn’t an attempt to win over anyone who is leaning toward Biden. Public surveys have repeatedly shown that opinions of President Trump are hardened, with 50% or more of voters saying they strongly disapprove of his job performance or dislike him. So, the campaign has made the conscious effort to get the base fired up. This strategy shouldn’t be underestimated by anyone not supporting Trump because his base is very loyal. What remains to be seen is if that will be enough for the president to clinch another Electoral College victory when it’s looking like a very long shot for him to win the popular vote. I expect the next three nights will be more of the same intensity in an effort to get Trump’s base on their feet.

Cody Lyon:  President Trump and the Republicans at the convention will likely have more of a hold on the country’s attention over the next three days than at any other stretch until Election Day.  Tuesday night’s theme is “Land of Opportunity” with speeches from first lady Melania Trump as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

For more analysis on the 2020 Election click here. 

Cody Lyon is AFBF’s managing director of advocacy and political affairs.

Randy Dwyer is AFBF’s director of advocacy & grassroots development.

Michael Sistak is AFBF’s director of grassroots program development.

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