WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — President Donald Trump stood on the South Lawn Thursday night and accepted his party’s nomination for president, presenting himself as the last barrier protecting an American way of life under siege from radical forces.
Facing a fraught national moment, Trump painted an optimistic vision of America’s future, including an eventual triumph over the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 175,000 people and left millions unemployed. But that brighter horizon can only be secured, Trump asserted, if he defeats Joe Biden.
The Republicans claim that the violence that has erupted in Kenosha and in some cities across the country is to be blamed on Democratic governors and mayors. Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday said that Americans wouldn’t be safe in “Joe Biden’s America.”
That drew a stern rebuke from his predecessor in the post.
“The problem we have right now is that we are in Donald Trump’s America,” said Biden on MSNBC. “He views this as a political benefit to him, he is rooting for more violence not less. He is pouring gasoline on the fire.”
Along with Biden, running mate Kamala Harris offered counter-programming to Trump’s speech. She delivered a speech a half-mile from the White House Thursday afternoon, declaring, “Donald Trump doesn’t understand the presidency.”
“He thinks it’s all about him,” she said, adding that “It’s about all of us… 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.”
Demonstrations gathered Thursday night in Washington, ahead of a march planned for the next day. New fencing set up along the White House perimeter.
Protective masks were not required Thursday, and COVID-19 tests were not to administered to everyone.
But Trump, who has defended his handling of the pandemic, unveiled an expansion of rapid coronavirus testing. The president declared that his administration had struck a $750 million deal to acquire 150 million tests from Abbott Laboratories to be deployed in nursing homes, schools and other areas with populations at high risk.
The final night of the RNC came as another one million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, in numbers released Thursday. And the U.S. economy shrank at an annual rate of 31.7% during the April-June quarter as it struggled under the weight of the viral pandemic. It was the sharpest quarterly drop on record.
Trump told reporters after receiving a briefing at FEMA headquarters on Thursday afternoon that he had considered postponing his acceptance speech until next week because of the Hurricane Laura.
“But now it turned out, we got a little bit lucky. It was very big, it was very powerful, but it passed quickly,” said Trump, who added he’d likely visit areas impacted by the storm over the weekend.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.