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Planners scramble to finalize details amid chaos, Trump’s input

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President Donald Trump zeroed in on Midwest battleground states on Monday with a tough, law and order message to counterprogram former Vice President Joe Biden’s show at the Democrats’ national convention. (Aug. 17)

AP Domestic

WASHINGTON – The Republican National Convention opens in just two days, but planners have yet to provide a final schedule or other key details about what will take place during the gathering that will culminate in the nomination of President Donald Trump for a second term.

Officials have confirmed the identities of a dozen or so convention speakers, but not when they will be speaking, where they will be, or what they will be talking about.

Convention planners haven’t officially announced that Trump is giving his acceptance speech from the White House, though the president himself has confirmed it.

Even aides to the Senate’s top Republican, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, seemed confused about whether he would have a convention speaking role. McConnell’s re-election campaign said Thursday he would be campaigning in his home state and would not be speaking at the event. Hours later, a campaign source said there had been “a miscommunication” and that the senator would submit taped remarks to be played at the convention.

McConnell’s off-again, on-again appearance at the convention underscores the chaotic nature of the short-term planning for a complex event that has been moved from two cites over a period of two months, all under the shadow of the pandemic, officials said.

“The airplane has been put together in mid-air, and it is much less organized than normal,” said Dan Eberhart, an energy company executive and GOP donor who is familiar with the convention planning.

But the convention is happening, ready or not, concluding a 2½-month scramble that involves constantly changing venues and ever-changing schedules over four nights of programming.

Who’s speaking at the RNC? Here’s what we know so far

A delegate shows off support for Donald Trump during the third day session of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2016. This year’s Republican convention, which opens Monday, will be a much smaller affair. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster, AP)

A mostly virtual RNC, with some in-person events and small crowds

There are many reasons for seeming chaos, officials said, including Trump’s insistence on approving most decisions and the egos of people who want prime-time speaking slots.

“You’ve got many senior Republicans who have higher approval ratings than Trump, and so that’s playing into who wants to be seen at the convention and who doesn’t,” Eberhart said.

The event, which opens Monday and closes Thursday night with Trump’s acceptance speech at the White House, will be a far cry from the glitz of conventions past, primarily because of the threat of the coronavirus pandemic. The convention is expected to be a mostly virtual affair, although small crowds are expected at some events.

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With no balloon drops, what’s a convention for?

The jockeying for speaker slots probably contributed to the mix-up with McConnell, an official said.

Lobbying for prominent speaker roles has been an especially big problem given the last-minute planning due to the cancellations – the same kinds of problems the Democrats faced right up to their virtual convention.

Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks during the third day of the Democratic National Convention, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press)

The GOP should draw on lessons from this week’s Democratic National Convention, where speakers like Sen. Kamala Harris accepted her historic nomination as Biden’s running mate to a near empty auditorium, said Matt Gorman, a Republican strategist who worked for Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns.

The stretch of silence following her remarks was louder than the eruption of applause that would have typically followed.

As much as emphasizing a clear message matters, there’s “zero room for error” on live television when it comes to the technical transition between speakers, Gorman said.

“There’s no choice but success. I think there’s too much at stake,” he said. “The people who are running it are extremely competent and a lot of this was planned in terms of speakers and things, so a lot of it is transition and figuring out how to do it in a new venue.

“That’s certainly not an easy task.”

POTUS vs. POTUS: Barack Obama called out Donald Trump in his DNC speech, and the current president was not happy

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