CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Trump on Monday basked in the adoring glow of the Republican National Convention and declared: “Success brings unity.”
Mr. Trump coined the maxim shortly after the convention’s unanimous vote to nominate him for another four-year term, in effect completing the transformation of the Republican Party into the Party of Trump.
The president told delegates in the Charlotte Convention Center, which is locked down as a precaution against the novel coronavirus, that he had not only united the party but also brought Americans together through prosperity, which would return under his leadership.
“We have to win. Our country is counting on it,” the president said.
The scene — beyond the strangeness of the quarantine of the convention hall — reflected a party in lockstep with Mr. Trump in a way that was unimaginable four years ago.
His most vocal Republican opponents from 2016 either have converted to Trumpism, been banished to the political sidelines or embraced Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden.
“Donald Trump is his own party,” convention delegate and former Rep. Lou Barletta told The Washington Times after announcing Pennsylvania’s backing of the president on the convention floor.
Mr. Barletta, one of the first members of Congress to endorse Mr. Trump in 2016, said this year’s convention will show that the enthusiasm is stronger and the party more solidified.
“You saw the unity today. He’s gotten every delegate’s vote, and people who I know were not supportive of the president in 2016, I saw their enthusiasm for him today,” he said. “He’s won those over who doubted he could do what he said he could do.”
The roll call vote and the president’s hourlong speech kicked off a four-day convention that will showcase Mr. Trump’s successes and his promise to beat COVID-19 and restore the pre-pandemic economic boom.
The convention will culminate Thursday night with Mr. Trump’s acceptance of the nomination.
The president’s speech Monday broke with tradition. The chosen nominee usually makes only a brief appearance, often just waving and making no remarks.
Mr. Trump couldn’t resist revving up the crowd.
“As usual, he did a great job of energizing his base. He’s kind of larger than life in the room,” said Edmund H. Driggs, a Charlotte City Council member at the convention.
Democrats have attempted to argue that Republicans are divided. They highlighted former Republican officeholders who are backing Mr. Biden this year, but those Republicans are the exceptions, not the rule.
“I don’t think that those voices will be any more significant than they were in 2016. These folks were all against Donald Trump four years ago,” said Charlie Gerow, a Republican Party strategist and senior official with the American Conservative Union.
Mr. Trump did have opponents during the primary, including former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois. Between them, they won only one convention delegate, which Mr. Weld claimed in Iowa. Mr. Trump won more than 2,300.
Presidents Obama and Clinton lost more delegates than that in their 2012 and 1996 reelection primaries.
Even after the Republican contest was over and Mr. Weld and Mr. Walsh dropped out, voters kept showing up, Mr. Gerow said. He pointed to his home state of Pennsylvania as proof. More than 1 million Republican voters showed up for a coronavirus-delayed primary in June, despite having no substantial contested races on the ballot.
“You can only chalk that up to one thing. There was enthusiasm for Trump,” Mr. Gerow said.
He also counts himself as a convert, having not been a big fan of Mr. Trump in 2016.
“I’m all in,” he told The Times.
The unity contrasts sharply with the 2016 Republican National Convention, when a ruckus broke out on the floor after delegates tried to force a divisive showdown over rules that prevented some states from voting for non-Trump candidates.
Ken Cuccinelli, then a delegate from Virginia, threw down his credentials and stormed out. He is now Mr. Trump’s No. 2 man at the Department of Homeland Security.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who gave a speech to the 2016 convention without endorsing Mr. Trump, is one of the president’s biggest backers this year.
Mr. Trump’s rally-style speech to the delegates previewed the messaging of the convention.
During the convention’s prime-time speeches, the themes of fighting for law and order, individual freedom and economic prosperity dominated remarks.
Some of the stars from the Trump orbit who took the stage were Nikki Haley, former ambassador to the United Nations, Donald Trump Jr. and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.
“President Trump and Republicans are fighting for the values that have defined our country from the beginning — liberty, justice, equality — and our convention is going to celebrate everything that makes America the greatest nation on Earth,” said Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.
Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, said the presidential election is about “who can preserve the values, principles and institutions that make America great.”
“Don’t believe me? Look at what’s happening in America’s cities — all run by Democrats. Crime, violence, mob rule. Democrats refuse to denounce the mob,” he said. “And their response to the chaos? Defund the police, defund Border Patrol, defund the military. And while they’re doing all of this, they’re also trying to take away your guns.”
In his impromptu afternoon speech, the president pledged to fully fund police and promote school choice, expand urban opportunity zones and plant an American flag on Mars.
Faulting the Obama-Biden administration for neglecting NASA, he said the space agency “had grass growing through cracks in its runways” when he took office.
“We’re going to the moon. We’re going to Mars. We’ll be the first on Mars,” Mr. Trump said.
He also made a pitch for the support of Black and Hispanic voters, boasting of record-low unemployment numbers before the coronavirus crisis.
Mr. Trump accused Democratic governors of keeping states such as North Carolina in coronavirus shutdown mode to inflict economic damage ahead of the Nov. 3 election, and he predicted that the state will reopen everything after voting is complete.
“On Nov. 4, it will all open up,” he said. “They want to make our numbers look as bad as possible for the election.”
⦁ Stephen Dinan reported from Washington.
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