WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — First lady Melania Trump portrayed her husband as an authentic, uncompromising leader in a Rose Garden address Tuesday night as President Donald Trump turned to family, farmers and the trappings of the presidency to boost his reelection chances on the second night of the Republican National Convention.
Melania Trump and two of his children were among the speakers for the night. The first lady spoke from the renovated Rose Garden.
“Tonight is the first lady’s night,” said campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh.
Out of the public view for much of the year, Mrs. Trump was stepping into the spotlight to argue for a second term for her husband.
Only the second foreign-born first lady in U.S. history, Mrs. Trump, 50, is a native of Slovenia, a former communist country in Eastern Europe. She became Trump’s third wife in 2005 and gave birth to their now 14-year-old son, Barron, in 2006 — the year she became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
“In my husband, you have a president who will not stop fighting for you and your families,” said Mrs. Trump. “He will not give up.”
Democrat Joe Biden’s campaign issued a statement following the first lady’s speech.
“Immigrants and Latinos are not props, and these empty gestures won’t make us forget Donald Trump’s failures,” said the Biden’s Latino media director, Jennifer Molina.
26-year-old Tiffany Trump, the president’s younger daughter, also spoke Tuesday.
“A vote for my father, Donald J. Trump, is a vote to uphold our American ideals,” she said.
In one of the emotional moments of the night, Trump showed a video of himself signing a pardon for Jon Ponder, a man from Nevada who has founded an organization that helps prisoners reintegrate into society.
“We live in a nation of second chances,” Ponder said, standing alongside Trump.
“John’s life is a beautiful testament to the power of redemption,” Trump said before he signed the pardon.
Tuesday’s two-and-a-half-hour lineup also featured a Maine lobsterman, a Wisconsin farmer and a Native American leader. Social conservatives were represented by an anti-abortion activist and Billy Graham’s granddaughter. The convention also featured a Kentucky high school student whose interaction last year with Native Americans became a flashpoint in the nation’s culture wars.
With Election Day just 10 weeks off and early voting beginning much sooner, Trump is under increasing pressure to reshape the contours of the campaign. But as he deals with challenges to contain the pandemic and the economy, Republicans have yet to identify a consistent political message arguing for his reelection.
There was little mention of the pandemic through the first hour of the program, although it remains a dominant issue for voters this fall.
The COVID-19 death toll increased past 178,000 on Tuesday, by far the highest in the world, and there is no sign of slowing. The nation’s unemployment rate still exceeds 10%, which is higher than it ever was during the Great Recession. And more than 100,000 businesses are feared closed forever.
At the same time, the White House seems to have put a pause on efforts to negotiate another federal rescue package with Congress.
On Tuesday night, there were attacks on Joe Biden throughout, although the lineup generally maintained a more positive tone — in part due to some last-minute changes.
Mary Ann Mendoza, an Arizona woman whose son, a police officer, was killed in 2014 in a car accident involving an immigrant in the country illegally, was pulled from the program minutes before the event began. She had directed her Twitter followers to a series of anti-Semitic, conspiratorial messages.
There were also barrier breakers featured like Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, the first African American to hold statewide office in Kentucky, and Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez, first Latina to hold that office in her state.
And the convention lineup featured a Democrat for the second night: Robert Vlaisavljevich, the mayor of Eveleth, Minnesota, praised Trump’s support for his state’s mining industry in particular.
“President Trump is fighting for all of us. He delivered the best economy in our history and he will do it again,” Vlaisavljevich said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was addressing the convention and nation during an official overseas trip in Israel.
Pompeo’s taped appearance breaks with decades of tradition of secretaries of state avoiding the appearance of involving themselves in domestic politics. His video was filmed in Jerusalem, where he was on an official foreign trip.
Overall, there were more than a dozen speakers planned for the evening’s prime-time program, most of them appearing in the prerecorded video or inside a largely empty Washington auditorium.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.