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Mike Pence Formally Renominated For Vice President At RNC

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We are watching and listening to the Republican National Convention, which has begun on this Monday morning. Two state party chairmen have formally nominated President Trump for a second term as the Republican convention begins. Now, four years ago, the president painted a grim picture of a nation in decline. Today, in a deep recession and the highest pandemic death toll in the world, the president has promised to offer optimism and hope. The convention has begun. The roll call of states - we've begun, of course, with Alabama, going through alphabetical order. Let's listen to a little bit of that, as the secretary of the convention takes the speakers through.

(SOUNDBITE OF 2020 REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: The territory of American Samoa is proud to cast all of our nine votes for our awesome and fearless president, Donald J. Trump. (Speaking Samoan).

(CHEERING)

INSKEEP: Let's hear a couple more. Then we're going to get some analysis.

(SOUNDBITE OF 2020 REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Pursuant to the announcement of the delegation and the rules and procedures of this convention - American Samoa, nine votes, President Trump.

(CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Arizona.

(CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Fifty delegates with the following bound delegates - 57 delegates, President Donald Trump.

MICHAEL WARD: Madam Secretary, I'm Michael Ward, chairman of the Arizona delegation, home of the London Bridge, home of the Grand Canyon, home of World War II heroes the Navajo code talkers and - thanks to our excellent president - the land of growing opportunity zones, economic security, law and order, education choice, where unborn babies matter...

(CHEERING)

WARD: ...A flattened China plague curve and miles and miles and miles of big, beautiful wall.

(CHEERING)

WARD: Madam Secretary, in order to keep America first, the state of Arizona casts our 57 votes for President Donald J. Trump.

(CHEERING)

INSKEEP: A delegate from Arizona speaking today, as the roll call of states begins at the Republican National Convention. Let's take that down. We'll rejoin the roll call in a little bit, but I want to get some analysis and just some description of what's going on, what this looks like if you're listening at home or listening in the car as you're going about your day. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith is with us, along with our senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving, who's seen many of these conventions - both of you have. Good morning to you both.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: And, Tamara, can you just describe what we're seeing here? There an actual - unlike the Democratic convention, I mean, there's an actual gathering of people in Charlotte, N.C., right?

KEITH: Yeah, it's not a large gathering of people - though by COVID standards, it really is a large gathering. There's a few hundred, couple hundred people there. They have their signs for the states like you would see at a convention, and they are going up to the microphone now as part of this roll call, each state's representative saying a few things about their state, why they support the president. It's sort of a traditional roll call, but a lot of this is not traditional. And in the middle of a pandemic, I will note, that watching on the livestream - and there's not a large presence of reporters there because of the coronavirus. It's just a pool of reporters. So the rest of us are watching on a livestream. Not a lot of masks visible, I will say, as people were milling about.

INSKEEP: Yeah.

KEITH: Very few people seen wearing masks.

INSKEEP: Yeah. And the idea of six feet of separation, it'd be challenging in a crowded room anyway. But - and we're just going on the video feed, just describing - no effort, really, to stay - and people are gathering in conclaves.

KEITH: They're taking selfies, you know.

INSKEEP: Yeah, they're taking selfies.

KEITH: Not six feet apart.

INSKEEP: They're chatting with each other. They're taking the opportunity to be face to face. And as we have heard for months now, that is for many people not necessarily a public health statement; it's a political statement about what they've chosen to believe and who they've chosen to listen to for public health advice. Ron Elving, what stands out for you so far in what you have heard and seen?

ELVING: The suspense is overwhelming, Steve.

(LAUGHTER)

ELVING: It's 145 to nothing at this point. You know, these roll calls can be the most exciting part of a convention. Historically, they were multiple. You didn't just have one; they went on for days, and they could have scores of them. And it was where the convention was really taking place because that was where the determination was made who the nominee would be, and sometimes a state would surprise you with votes you didn't expect them to have. Well, that's long in the past now, especially when you have an incumbent president who is unchallenged in his own party. So there really wasn't a contest in any of these states, and many of them did not even have a primary or a caucus. They just cancelled them, just said, well, we don't need that; we've got President Trump.

INSKEEP: Yeah.

ELVING: So this is a formality.

INSKEEP: But let's listen to just a little bit of that formality. It is a chance for people in different states to show off and to hear a few voices other than the president's. So let's bring it back up again briefly, and then we're going to talk about a little more. Let's hear the next state.

(SOUNDBITE OF 2020 REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Pursuant to the announcement of the delegation and the rules and procedures of this convention, California cast 172 votes for President Trump.

(CHEERING)

INSKEEP: As Ron said, no suspense. But...

(SOUNDBITE OF 2020 REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Colorado, 37 delegates with the following bound delegates - 37, President Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Madam Secretary, in the past four years, President Trump and Vice President Pence have made America great again in the eyes of the world, so that now our friends respect us and our enemies fear us. They've given Americans great job opportunities with free trade agreements that are fair. They've appointed justices and judges who interpret the law and don't legislate from the bench. They've created the greatest economic expansion in decades that lifted all Americans, that protected us from a worldwide pandemic. They've enacted tax cuts because Americans spend their money more wisely than the government.

The great state of Colorado, home of U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, headquarters to the Bureau of Land Management and the United States Space Command, proudly casts all 37 votes to keep America great again for President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

(CHEERING)

INSKEEP: A little bit more of the roll call of the states, as the Republican National Convention begins today. Of course, in that brief statement, we have many remarks that could be fact-checked or questioned or challenged, to say the least. For example, the claim that the president has protected us from the pandemic - that, according to many voters, is a vital, central issue. And as is widely known, the United States has the world's highest death toll in the pandemic, of more than 175,000, as well as the world's largest number of cases and one of the higher rates of infection and death in the world, although not certainly the highest.

Before we turn back to Tamara Keith and Ron Elving, I just want to note some of the statements that have already been made today. There were nominating speeches just before the roll call of the states began. And we heard from Joe Gruters, the chairman of what was described as the president's home state of Florida; he has changed his voting address from New York to Florida.

And Gruters - I think it is fair to say, Tamara Keith - outlined a few things we can anticipate the president to offer as themes for his reelection in the fall, talking about a record investment in the military, which is factually true. Military spending has gone up. And then talking about other things that would be more disputed, saying not defunding the police, but defending the police. And, also, there's another soundbite, another bumper sticker - jobs, not mobs. How does that compare to what you would expect the president to be saying all summer and fall?

KEITH: That is very much in line what we - with what we expect the president to be saying all summer and fall. The president's message is, essentially, look at protests in the street that have happened, the racial justice protests. But he says, no, look at the burning, look at the rioting, look at the small number of people who are doing things that are very illegal; if you elect Joe Biden, you will have more of this. It's an interesting position for an incumbent to take. It's almost like he's running as a challenger, even though he is actually the president right now, and this is his America. In many ways, he's almost running against fellow Americans. And it is the tact that he has taken...

INSKEEP: Running still as an outsider, as a Twitter troll, as someone who is not in charge, who is outraged by events.

KEITH: Absolutely. And, frequently, he tweets things, just sort of, like, shouting into the great beyond, complaining about his own government.

INSKEEP: Ron Elving, how has the president's approval rating remained among Republican voters during this season, and what do you make of that?

ELVING: Phenomenal and fanatical. There is a sense that the Republican voter in America has decided on Donald Trump regardless, and it is truly regardless of whatever may happen. And many will say that to you directly when you interview them, when you say, is there anything the president could do that would lose your support? They say, I can't imagine anything. And I believe that they are quite sincere about that. They can't imagine anything because they have decided that the country's problems are not the president's problems, that they're not the responsibility of Donald Trump. As he has said on a number of occasions, he doesn't take any responsibility at all for what has happened with the virus.

And they do see, however, some things that they like better about the government from four years ago, and they attribute those to Donald Trump, such as two new Supreme Court justices and a number of other federal court judges who were appointed and confirmed during the last 3 1/2 years. So they have many things to be happy about, and the things that are negatives, that are acknowledged negatives, they do not fault the president for those.

INSKEEP: Tamara Keith, I want to give you the last word here. Of course, most of the country do not identify as Republican, and the president is badly behind in polls. How do his people see themselves getting out of this?

KEITH: Well, they think that there is a silent majority, that there are people hiding and pretending - telling pollsters the wrong thing. Also, you know, the president is going to campaign - and we'll see a lot of that in the nights to come with the prime-time part of the convention - on the idea that he had a strong economy and he's going to get back to a strong economy and that he is the one to take the country out of this.

INSKEEP: NPR's Tamara Keith and Ron Elving. Although we have to note, there will not be a new party platform in 2020. They're going with 2016 and support of Donald Trump - the Republican convention. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.