Republicans portrayed the U.S. as a "land of heroes" on the third night of the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night while Vice President Mike Pence went on the attack against Joe Biden, calling the Democratic nominee a "Trojan horse for a radical left."
"Our economic recovery is on the ballot, law and order is on the ballot. But so are things far more fundamental and foundational to our country," Pence said. "It's not so much whether America will be more conservative or more liberal, more Republican or more Democrat. The choice in this election is whether America remains America."
Most of the speeches were recorded earlier, and aside from Pence's speech, there were few mentions of the coronavirus pandemic, the hurricane set to make landfall in the Gulf or the ongoing unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man left partially paralyzed after an officer shot him seven times in the back.
Once Pence had arrived at Fort McHenry, where he delivered his speech, he decided to add a passing mention of Kenosha. Noting that Biden "didn't say one word about the violence and chaos engulfing cities across this country" during last week's Democratic convention, Pence declared, "Let me be clear: the violence must stop — whether in Minneapolis, Portland, or Kenosha."
Speakers sought to portray the GOP as the party of "heroes" and "greatness," in contrast to Democrats.
"Joe Biden said we were living through a 'season of American darkness,'" Pence said from the site of a battle during the War of 1812 that inspired the "Star Spangled Banner." "But as President Trump said, where Joe Biden sees American darkness, we see American greatness."
President Trump did not appear as frequently on Wednesday as on the first two nights of the convention, showing up only after Pence's speech to listen to country singer Trace Adkins sing the national anthem. Speeches focused less on Mr. Trump and more on the personal stories of the speakers, including a personal turn by White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
There was an emphasis on religion and the military, with speakers like Congressman Dan Crenshaw of Texas, a combat veteran who is a rising star in the party, and retired Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg. Both Pence and his wife, Karen, noted their family members serving in the military.
Kellyanne Conway, Mr. Trump's 2016 campaign manager who announced on Sunday that she would be leaving the White House to focus on family, spoke about women's suffrage and credited Mr. Trump for championing women.
Mr. Trump will formally accept the nomination on Thursday at the White House on the final day of the convention.
Pence began his speech by criticizing Democrats, claiming they "hardly ever mentioned" the American ideals that have defined the nation during their own convention last week. Instead, the vice president said Democrats "spent four days attacking America."
"In these challenging times our country needs a president who believes in America, who believes in the boundless capacity of the American people to meet any challenge, defeat any foe, and defend the freedoms we all hold dear," Pence said. "America needs four more years of President Donald Trump in the White House."
Before continuing with his remarks, the vice president spoke to residents of Texas and Louisiana who are in the path of Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm set to slam the Gulf Coast, and urged them to "stay safe, and know that we'll be with you every step of the way."
Turning to his experience as vice president, Pence said that during their first term, he has watched Mr. Trump "endure unrelenting attacks and get up every day and fight to keep the promises he made to the American people."
"Over the past four years, I've worked closely with our president. I've seen him when the cameras are off," he said. "Americans see President Trump in lots of different ways but there's no doubt how President Trump sees America. He sees America for what it is, a nation that has done more good in this world than any other, a nation that deserves far more gratitude than grievance, and if you want a president who falls silent when our heritage is demeaned or insulted, then he's not your man."
The vice president joked that Mr. Trump "certainly keeps things interesting," but is a man of his word.
"In a city known for talkers, President Trump is a doer," he said. "Few presidents have brought more independence, energy and determination to that office."
Pence highlighted several items from Mr. Trump's first-term agenda, including national security, and sought to cast the president as one who has "stood up to our enemies" alongside U.S. allies. He also praised the president's work reshaping the federal judiciary, protecting the Second Amendment and signing legislation reforming the tax code.
The vice president noted the devastation wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, but lauded Mr. Trump's efforts in response, including the administration's efforts to speed development and distribution of a coronavirus vaccine.
Pence vowed that in the coming days, "we'll continue to put the health of America first," and urged voters to ask themselves come November 3, "who do you trust to rebuild this economy? A career politician who presided over the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression? Or a proven leader who created the greatest economy in the world."
"The choice is clear: to bring America all the way back, we need four more years of President Donald Trump in the White House," he said.
Pence became the first and only speaker Wednesday night to mention the violence and unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. But Pence made no mention of Blake, who is partially paralyzed and fighting for life in the hospital, nor any other Black American injured or killed by police this year, or of greater racial unrest and division.
"Let me be clear: the violence must stop, whether in Minneapolis, Portland or Kenosha," Pence said. "Too many heroes have died defending our freedoms to see Americans strike each other down."
He did, however, praise law enforcement and said that under the Trump administration, there will be "law and order on the streets of America for every American of every race and creed and color."
"The hard truth is you won't be safe in Joe Biden's America," he said. "Under President Trump, we will stand with those who stand on the thin blue line, and we're not going to defund the police. Not now, not ever."
Pence, like many other speakers across the first three nights of the convention, said a vote for Biden in November would be "nothing more than a Trojan horse for the radical left," and said the choice this election "has never been clearer, and the stakes have never been higher."
"Our economic recovery is on the ballot, law and order is on the ballot. But so are things far more fundamental and foundational to our country," he said."It's not so much whether America will be more conservative or more liberal, more Republican or more Democrat. The choice in this election is whether America remains America."
The country is at a "crossroads," Pence said. While Mr. Trump "set our nation on a path to freedom and opportunity" from the first days of the administration, Biden "would set America on a path of socialism and decline," he said.
Pence acknowledged that while 2020 has been a challenging year for the U.S., Mr. Trump has the "toughness, energy and resolve to see us through."
"I leave here today inspired, and I leave here today more convinced than ever that we will do as Americans have done through our long and storied past," Pence said in closing. "We will defend our freedom and our way of life. We will reelect our president and principled Republican leaders across this land, and with President Donald Trump in the White House for four more years, and with God's help, we will make America great again, again."
Outgoing White House counselor Kellyanne Conway continued to try to make the case that the president is a champion of women. The president is losing to Biden among women in polls by roughly 2-1.
Conway announced earlier this week that she's leaving the White House at the end of the month to focus on her family.
"For decades, he has elevated women to senior positions in business and in government," she said of the president. "He confides in and consults us, respects our opinions, and insists that we are on equal footing with the men."
Conway, who was raised in a home of all women, tried to make the case that the president is working hard for families.
She also touched on the drug crisis in America, having focused much of her time in the White House on fighting the opioid epidemic.
"Rather than look the other way, President Trump stared directly at this drug 'crisis next door' and, through landmark, bipartisan legislation has helped secure historic investments in surveillance, interdiction, education, prevention, treatment and recovery," Conway said. "We have a long way to go, but the political inertia that costs lives and the silence and stigma that prevents people in need from coming forward is melting away. This is the man I know and the president we need."
White House press secretary shared a very intimate story, one she's shared before, about her decision to get a double mastectomy, after her doctor showed she was at a very high risk for breast cancer.
Many women in her family had experienced breast cancer, some of them as young as in their 20s. McEnany said she received calls from Ivanka Trump and the president after undergoing the procedure.
"I was scared. The night before I fought back tears, as I prepared to lose a piece of myself," McEnany said. "But the next day, with my mom, dad, husband, and Jesus Christ by my side, I underwent a mastectomy, almost eliminating my chance of breast cancer— a decision I now celebrate. During one of my most difficult times, I expected to have the support of my family, but I had more support than I knew. As I came out of anesthesia, one of the first calls I received was from Ivanka Trump. Days later, as I recovered, my phone rang. It was President Trump, calling to check on me. I was blown away."
"Though I didn't personally know the President at the time, I know him well now and I can tell you that this president loves the American people, stands by Americans with preexisting conditions, and supports working moms," she added. The Trump administration has sought in court to overturn the Affordable Care Act, which protects those with preexisting conditions.
McEnany also spoke to the president's support for her as a working mother. McEnany was the mom of a newborn when she first joined the White House, and her daughter is now nine months old.
"I want my daughter to grow up in Donald J. Trump's America," she said. "Choosing to have a preventative mastectomy was the hardest decision I have made. But supporting President Trump, who will protect my daughter & our children's future, was the easiest."
The mother of a U.S. Marine, Pence spoke to the role of military spouses, both in their efforts supporting their families and as business owners forging their own paths.
Pence highlighted Lisa Bradley and Cameron Cruse, who started the handbag company R. Riveter, which is manufactured by military spouses, and Jilan Hall-Johnson, a culinary artist who opened the Sassy Biscuit.
"President Trump and Vice President Pence have been supporting our United States Armed Forces, including our military families, on a significant scale," she said. "While traveling throughout our nation to educate military spouses about policy solutions that President Trump has promoted, involving real, tangible progress in military spouse employment, I have been inspired to meet heroes" like Bradley and Cruse.
She also highlighted her work raising awareness for art therapy for veterans with post traumatic stress disorder.
Pence opened and closed her remarks by commemorating the 100th anniversary of ratification of the 19th Amendment, which secured women the right to vote, and urged women to exercise that right in November.
"One hundred years ago, women secured the right to vote," she said. "So let's vote, America. Let's honor our heroes. Let's reelect President Trump and Vice President Pence for four more years."
Legendary football coach Lou Holtz chastised politicians, professors, protesters and Mr. Trump's "naysayers in the media," saying they "like to blame others for problems," while he grew up abiding by the principles instilled in him by his parents: not to blame anyone, to get an education, and to work.
Those detractors, he said, "don't have pride in our country. And because they no longer ask 'what can I do for my country, only what the country should be doing for them,' they don't have pride in themselves. That's wrong."
Holtz said that he has made decisions in his life based on trust, commitment and love, and when it comes to politicians, he asks himself whether he can trust them, whether they are committed to doing their best and whether they care about others.
"Trust. Commitment. Love," he said. "In President Trump we have a president we can trust, who works hard at making America greater, and who genuinely cares about people."
But Holtz said that Biden fails that test and urged Americans to "show up in November" to cast their votes for Mr. Trump.
"I used to ask our athletes at Notre Dame, 'If you did not show up who would miss you and why?'" he said. "Can you imagine what would happen to us if President Trump had not shown up in 2016 to run for President? I am so glad he showed up."
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem opened her speech by saying the nation's "founding principles are under attack."
"This year, the choice for Americans is between a man who values these ideals and all that can be built because of them, and a man who isn't guided by these ideals and coincidentally, has built nothing," she said.
Noem said that the government's power comes only from the people, and the founders were careful to not give too much power to the federal government, keeping much of it with states. She then touched on a frequent theme for Republicans this year — violence in cities.
"It took 244 years to build this great nation — flaws and all — but we stand to lose it in a tiny fraction of that time if we continue down the path taken by the Democrats and their radical supporters," Noem said. "From Seattle and Portland to Washington and New York, Democrat-run cities across this country are being overrun by violent mobs. The violence is rampant. There's looting, chaos, destruction, and murder. People that can afford to flee have fled. But the people that can't - good, hard-working Americans - are left to fend for themselves."
The governor ended her speech by saying President Trump is "fighting for you."
Blackburn focused her remarks on praising law enforcement and members of the armed services, saying they are the heroes "Democrats don't recognize, because they don't fit into their narrative."
"Leftists try to turn them into villains," the Tennessee senator said. "They want to 'cancel' them. But I'm here to tell you that these heroes can't be canceled."
Blackburn accused Biden and Kamala Harris, his running mate, of trying to "destroy these heroes because if there are no heroes to inspire us, government can control us."
"If the Democrats had their way, they would keep you locked in your house until you become dependent on the government for everything," she claimed. "That sounds a lot like Communist China to me — maybe that's why Joe Biden is so soft on them. Why Nancy Pelosi says that 'China would prefer Joe Biden.'"
Blackburn closed by lauding Mr. Trump for his defense of law enforcement and the military and said he has "made good on his promise to put America first."
Crenshaw, too, heralded the heroism of service members, but also extolled the work of health care workers tending to COVID-19 patients, parents assisting their children with school work and police officers.
"We need to remind ourselves what heroism really is," Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL, said. "Heroism is self-sacrifice, it's not moralizing and lecturing over others when they disagree. Heroism is grace, not perpetual outrage. Heroism is rebuilding our communities, not destroying them. Heroism is renewing faith in the symbols that unite us, not tearing them down."
The Texas congressman said voters can "decide right now that American greatness will not be rejected nor squandered."
"As the American founding was grounded in individual liberty, so will be our future," he said. "But if we are to rediscover our strength, then it must be an endeavor undertaken by each and every one of us. We must become the heroes that we so admire."
Kellogg, national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, said that in working at the White House, he has witnessed foreign policy and national security decisions made by Mr. Trump.
"I saw only one agenda and one guiding question when tough calls had to be made: is this decision right for America?" Kellogg said.
The retired lieutenant general praised Mr. Trump for the killing of Qassem Soleimani, leader of Iran's elite Quds military force, his policies on China and the recent peace deal brokered between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
"Make no mistake, President Trump is no hawk," Kellogg saiad. "He wisely wields the sword when required, but believes in seeking peace instead of perpetual conflict."
Kellogg urged voters to ask whether the president has fulfilled his promises to the American people, including to keep the U.S. out of "needless conflicts" and end so-called endless wars.
"I am asking you to stand up and be counted, so we never have to look back and recall what it was once like in America when men and women were free, our families were secure, and we had a president who served the people," he said.
Madison Cawthorn, the GOP candidate for White House chief of staff Mark Meadows' old seat in North Carolina, shared his journey to where he is today. Cawthorn is in a wheelchair now, after a car accident as a teenager.
At 25, he would be the youngest member of Congress in two centuries.
"At 20, I made a choice. In 2020, our country has a choice. We can give up on the American idea, or we can work together to make our imperfect union more perfect," he said. "I choose to fight for the future, to seize the high ground and retake the Shining City on a Hill."
Cawthorn made the bold choice of comparing his age to past national leaders, but incorrectly said that James Madison was a signatory of the Declaration of Independence.
"If you don't think young people can change the world, then you don't know American history," he said. "George Washington was 21 when he received his first military commission. Abe Lincoln was 22 when he first ran for office. James Madison was 25 when he signed the Declaration of Independence.
At the end of his speech, Cawthorn stood from his wheelchair.
"The American idea my ancestors fought for during the Revolutionary War is as exciting and revolutionary today as it was 250 years ago. I say to Americans who love our country — young and old — be a radical for freedom. Be a radical for liberty. Be a radical for our republic. For which I stand," he said.
Ernst recalled the devastating flooding that swept through Iowa in 2008, followed by the derecho that hit the state this month, and praised Mr. Trump for swiftly signing an emergency declaration that unlocked federal aid to the state.
The senator also heralded the Trump administration's trade deals, including the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, as a boon to farmers and said she believes the Biden-Harris ticket would be devastating to them.
"The Democratic Party of Joe Biden is pushing this so-called Green New Deal," she said. "If given power, they would essentially ban animal agriculture and eliminate gas-powered cars. It would destroy the agriculture industry, not just here in Iowa, but throughout the country."
Ernst characterized the November election as a "choice between two very different paths."
"Freedom, prosperity, and economic growth, under a Trump-Pence administration," she said. "Or, the Biden-Harris path, paved by liberal coastal elites and radical environmentalists. An America where farmers are punished, jobs are destroyed, and taxes crush the middle class. That is our choice. And it's a clear one."
Lara Trump, the president' daughter-in-law, gave voters a behind-the-scenes look at the Trump family, saying her in-laws are "warm and caring," "hard workers" and "down to earth."
"They reminded me of my own family, they made me feel like I was home," she said.
The wife of Eric Trump, Lara Trump said that when she walked the halls of the Trump Organization, there were many women executives among the ranks.
"Gender didn't matter, what mattered was someone's ability to get the job done," she said.
Lara Trump said she experienced that same principle in 2016, when then-candidate Trump sought her help winning North Carolina, her home state.
"Though I had no political experience, he believed in me and supported me. He knew I was capable even if I didn't," she said.
Seeking to demonstrate to voters the impact the Trump presidency has had on women, Lara Trump said she was unsurprised by her father-in-law's appointments of women to senior positions, including secretary of the United Nations, secretary of the Air Force, CIA director and director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as the economic gains for women.
"He didn't do these things to gain a vote or to check a box," she said. "He did them because they are the right things to do."
Lara Trump said the November election "is not just a choice between Republican and Democrat or left and right. This is an election that will decide if we keep America America, or if we head down an uncharted, frightening path towards socialism."
Invoking the recent unrest in U.S. cities, Lara Trump criticized Biden, saying he will "not do what it takes to maintain order, to keep our children safe in our neighborhoods and in their schools, to restore our American way of life."
She praised Mr. Trump, saying he is a "good man" who loves his family and "didn't need this job."
"He is a person of convictions. He is a fighter and will never stop fighting for America. He will uphold our values," she said. "He will preserve our families. And he will build on the great American edict that our union will never be perfect until opportunity is equal for all, including, and especially, for women."
Lara Trump closed with a message directly to Mr. Trump, thanking him for believing in her and "bravely leading this country." She also offered prayers to those in the path of Hurricane Laura, a category 4 storm bearing down on Texas and Louisiana.