What to Know About How the 2020 Republican National Convention Will Work

Just like last week's Democratic National Convention, the event isn't turning out as planned

2016 RNC
President Donald Trump (center) at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on July 21, 2016. Photo: Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty

A rocky road has led to this week's Republican National Convention, where President Donald Trump will make his re-election pitch in Washington, D.C. — without the thousands-strong crowd for which he had been pushing.

As the nation continues to grapple with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the election-cycle event kicked off Monday under unprecedented circumstances much like last week's Democratic National Convention.

While the DNC ended up unveiling a series of video, virtual and remote appearances across four nights, with stars like Kerry Washington serving as de facto hosts from a studio, the logistics for the RNC remain less clear.

Trump, 74, has said it will include more live programming similar to conventions past, rather than the pandemic DNC. Even so, the convention won't turn out as hoped.

For months, the president pressed forward with a desire for a convention held to roaring crowds of supporters and he shifted the location of the major events twice: first from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida, where coronavirus restrictions were more favorable; and then canceling it entirely in late July as an acknowledgment that the health and safety risks were too real.

Instead of a traditional gathering, with thousands of attendees and supporters mingling at four days' worth of events and speeches, the convention and its ceremonies will now mostly take place around D.C.

Trump plans to give his acceptance speech for the party's nomination from the White House grounds, which critics have said unethically mixes official government and campaign business. First Lady Melania Trump will similarly speak remotely from the White House.

"Together, we are honoring the great American story and looking ahead to the next chapter: four more years of American prosperity," the party's chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, said in a Monday statement.

Read on for details about the upcoming proceedings, organized around daily themes of “Land of Promise,” “Land of Opportunity,” “Land of Heroes” and “Land of Greatness."

Donald Trump speaking at Mount Rushmore
Trump speaks during the Independence Day events at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone, South Dakota, July 3, 2020. SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

When and where

The convention's notable events will mostly take place around D.C., with speakers appearing at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, according to Politico. Trump will deliver his acceptance speech on Thursday from the White House, while the RNC has signaled he will additionally make appearances every other day.

“Whether it’s legally wrong or ethically out of the question, it shouldn’t even have been something that was expressed,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told MSNBC earlier this month. “For the president of the United States to degrade once again the White House, as he has done over and over again, by saying he’s going to completely politicize it, is something that should be rejected right out of hand."

Republican lawmakers have also questioned the ethics of Trump's speech location.

"Is that even legal? I assume that's not something that you could do," South Dakota Sen. John Thune said earlier this month, according to NPR. "I think anything to do on federal property would seem to be problematic."

Mrs. Trump will speak on Tuesday from the newly renovated Rose Garden while Vice President Mike Pence will speak Wednesday at Baltimore's Fort McHenry.

Who will be there

Melania Trump
First Lady Melania Trump. OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty
US President Donald Trump speaks as US Vice President Mike Pence looks on
Donald Trump and Mike Pence in April 2020. MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty

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Aside from the president's acceptance speech, a number of other notable conservative figures will speak.

That list includes former Ambassador Nikki Haley and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and four of Trump's children — Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump and Tiffany Trump — along with more everyday figures most recognizable from various news events, such as a St. Louis couple recorded pointing their guns at protesters this summer.

"For the next four nights, expect to hear from front-line workers, moms, veterans, factory workers, small business owners, law enforcement and diverse up-and-coming leaders of the party, all sharing their stories about how President Trump’s policies have improved their lives and opened the door for a better future," Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Monday.

Notably absent, however, will be previous Republican leaders like President George W. Bush and Sen. Matt Romney, both of whom Trump has criticized — and been criticized in turn.

How to watch

While viewers will be able to watch the convention on cable networks like CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, the RNC will also be streamed via social media — including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Twitch.

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