Trump vows to ’save’ America, defeat pandemic in accepting GOP nod

Georgia Republicans cheer speech, promise to hold state

President Donald Trump capped the final night of the Republican National Convention with a blistering speech that skewered Democrat Joe Biden as a political extremist who can’t put a stop to the unrest ignited by protests for social justice or cure an economy ailing from the coronavirus pandemic.

He accepted his party’s nomination Thursday in a speech that intensified a law-and-order message that takes aim at suburban voters who fled the GOP in the 2018 midterms, with warnings that a Biden victory will threaten funding for law enforcement agencies and bring chaos to America’s cities.

“At no time before have voters faced a clearer choice between two parties, two visions, two philosophies or two agendas,” Trump said, framing this year’s vote as a crossroads for the nation’s future.

“This election will decide whether we save the American dream, or whether we allow a socialist agenda to demolish our cherished destiny,” he said.

It came on the fourth night of a scaled-back convention held with a mix of in-person and remote speeches due to the pandemic, but that ended with a defiant speech to a packed and largely maskless crowd dotted with high-profile Georgia Republicans.

But Trump also found himself competing for attention with fresh crises, including a Gulf Coast hurricane and fresh protests over another police shooting of a Black man, this time in the battleground state of Wisconsin.

In Georgia, another must-win state for Trump, more than 100 GOP delegates and activists gathered at the Grand Hyatt in Buckhead to cheer the president’s message and urgent pleas to turn out wavering Republicans.

The Republican National Convention watch party at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta on Thursday, August 27, 2020. The final day of the convention features President Donald Trump at the final speaker. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

At an event that was both a GOP pep rally and a call to action, a string of candidates put the focus on securing the state for Trump, all too aware of Democrats’ efforts to flip Georgia for the first time since 1992.

Andrew Clyde, a contender for a northeast Georgia congressional seat, reminded the audience that the trove of GOP votes in his backyard “could make the difference” in November. Former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel warned that “we’ve got our work cut out for us.”

And Georgia GOP Executive Director Stewart Bragg updated the crowd with the party’s latest ground-game efforts: Staffers and volunteers have made roughly 6 million voter contacts and knocked on 600,000 doors so far.

“Not one Republican vote can be taken for granted,” he said.

‘The destroyer’

While Democrats pushed a message last week at their convention that Biden would restore order and decency to a chaotic and embattled White House, the four-day GOP meeting presented a dystopian vision of America’s future that only Trump could prevent.

With the White House as his backdrop, Trump presented an optimistic view of the nation under his leadership, and he declared himself a bulwark against Democrats pushing the “most extreme set of proposals ever put forward by a major-party nominee.”

With suburban voters in mind, Trump echoed the explicit message that Vice President Mike Pence delivered a day before: “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s world.”

His voice rising, Trump asked whether voters can back a Democratic Party that “spends so much time tearing down our country.”

“Your vote will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans, or whether we give free rein to violent anarchists, agitators and criminals who threaten our citizens.”

Using the trappings of the presidency to his advantage, Trump tied to walk a narrow line: at once presenting himself as an outsider bent on upending the status quo and an embodiment of the office’s sweeping powers, which he’s relentlessly sought to expand.

The crowd in both Atlanta and Washington relished the speech, chanting “four more years” and peppering him with applause — a distinct contrast with last week’s all-virtual Democratic event. The Buckhead ballroom erupted as Trump offered a prediction: “When I’m re-elected, the best is yet to come.”

Rather than cede the spotlight to Trump, Biden and his campaign staged events to counter the president’s message. In an interview with MSNBC, Biden said the “problem we have right now is we are in Donald Trump’s America.”

And he accused Trump of “rooting” for violence sparked by the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which led to protests and gunfire that killed two people and injured a third.

And Kamala Harris, the Democratic nominee for vice president, said Trump “failed to protect the American people, plain and simple,” with his response to a coronavirus pandemic that’s killed more than 175,000 people and left millions more jobless.

Trump tried to present the coronavirus pandemic as under control, rather than a growing threat to the nation’s economy and public health, and he promised to deliver a vaccine by year’s end.

And he framed himself as a promise-keeper who has done “nothing but fight for you” against adversaries, led by Biden, who he said are desperate to carry out a “betrayal of our country.”

“Joe Biden is not the savior of America’s soul,” Trump said. “He is the destroyer of America’s jobs, and if given the chance, he will be the destroyer of American greatness.”

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