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[00:00:03]

Hey there, it's the NPR Politics podcast. Susan Davis, I cover Congress. I'm Tamara Keith. I cover the White House. I'm Franco Ordonez.

[00:00:10]

I also cover the White House. And I'm Mara Liasson, national political correspondent. And it is 12:00, 26 a.m. on Friday, August 28. And the Republican National Convention has officially come to a close. President Trump closed the night with a lengthy acceptance speech.

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My fellow Americans tonight, with a heart full of gratitude and boundless optimism, I profoundly accept this nomination for president of the United States.

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Tim, you're still there at the White House. You were there for the speech. What was it like?

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Well, I haven't been around this many people in a long time, like a really long time.

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It made me sweat a little bit watching it on TV. Yeah, I gathered.

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Uh huh. It was even more fun there. No, I mean, I had my in 95 mask and kept my social distance, but the people that were actually there to attend the event and were active participants in it were seated in rows and rows and rows of white chairs separated by maybe 12 inches, if you're lucky. I mean, there were about 1500 people there. This did not look like a covid-19 set up, it looked like a very large event on the South Lawn of the White House, which in and of itself is unprecedented for a convention speech.

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I mean, it was converted into a convention set.

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Yeah, I mean, it really was kind of like a Trump campaign on the South Lawn of the White House.

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I mean, I was really floored, especially at the end when they started shooting up the fireworks and seeing, like, those big from from behind those overhead shots, wide shots and seeing like everybody on the White House, all the colors and then seeing in fireworks. Trump Twenty twenty. I mean, it was it was startling. And, you know, you know, some of the hairs, you know, probably went up on the back of my neck just thinking about the the idea of separation between government and campaign.

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There was no separation.

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There was no separation. And there are many legal experts who say it was illegal, a violation of the Hatch Act for sure, which doesn't affect the president. But but it affects all those other people who made this happen. And if we had civics education in the United States, everyone would know why we separate the person and the state and why, you know, there are reasons that you don't mix partisan political activity and official resources like the White House.

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But that's what he did tonight. And the Hatch Act is rarely enforced. And who's going to punish him for this? Yet another norm busted in a spectacular way with fireworks.

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You would have to punish himself. And that's not going to happen. And this was a speech. He spoke for more than an hour. It was quite long, especially compared to Joe Biden's speech. I'm really curious to know what you'll take away our friend. So I'm going to start with you. What do you make of it?

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Well, I mean, I was really intrigued how, you know, he continued the argument of trying to paint Joe Biden as this radical leftist.

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This election will decide whether we save the American dream or whether we allow a socialist agenda to demolish our cherished destiny to this theme that they that the Republicans have been pushing all week.

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Trump really hammered it home tonight.

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And it's you know, it's just kind of a tough argument to make against Joe Biden. He's not known as this radical leftist. Yes. He moved more to the left during the primaries. But you know this, he's not Bernie Sanders. And that was kind of originally the idea of the Republicans was to push this against Bernie Sanders, who describes himself as a democratic socialist.

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But Bernie Sanders did not win, but they adopted it to Biden. And and now they're kind of changing it a bit, just saying that Biden is kind of a puppet, a Trojan horse.

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If the left gains power, they will demolish the suburbs, confiscate your guns and appoint justices who will wipe away your Second Amendment and other constitutional freedoms. Biden is a Trojan horse for socialism. If Joe Biden doesn't have the strength to stand up to wild eyed Marxists like Bernie Sanders and his fellow radicals, and there are many. There are many, many. We see him all the times. Incredible, actually. Then how is he ever going to stand up for you?

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He's not. You know, the other thing, the other takeaway I had from this is there's for Donald Trump, the pandemic is in the rearview mirror.

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Just seeing all those people, very few masks, no social distancing, not a lot of talk about the pandemic except to promise that they're going to he's going to have a vaccine, he said, before the end of the year and maybe sooner. I definitely am expecting an announcement in October about a vaccine.

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And there is an FDA meeting in late October. Yes.

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And how confident they are that the law and order message, the law and order attack on Biden as the candidate of rioters and looters is going to work for them in the strongest possible terms.

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The Republican Party condemns the rioting, looting, arson and violence we have seen in Democrat run cities all like Kenosha, Minneapolis, Portland, Chicago, in New York and many others Democrat run.

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And I think, you know, there's some indication that people's concerns are shifting from racial justice to rioting. There was a poll in Wisconsin today from Marquette University that showed the net approval for black lives matter among white voters in Wisconsin totally evaporating over the last couple of weeks.

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Yeah, I mean, I think white voters is a really important word in that sentence. The other thing that they were struggling with and you could really see him struggling with this is this what do you do about your record when you're an incumbent running for re-election without seven percent growth like Ronald Reagan? So you can't run a Morning in America ad. So he has to reconcile. How does he run on his record at the same time saying that in the second term he's going to do all the things he promised to do in the first term?

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All right.

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Let's take a quick break. And when we get back, we'll talk more about tonight support for this podcast. And the following message come from Google. Google's free tools and resources are designed to help millions of small businesses get the most out of digital tools from free online trainings and tutorials to On-Demand.

[00:07:05]

Classes through Grow with Google offerings include free digital skills, workshops, live and on demand events and short helpful videos on key topics for small businesses. Explore Google's free tools for small businesses at Google Dotcom Slash Small Business.

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Good question. That's a really good question. It's a great question. This is free therapy. Thank you for asking me that. God, that's such a good question.

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That's an interesting question. But what fresh air interviews are really about are the interesting answers. Listen and subscribe to Fresh Air from Y and NPR. And we're back.

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And now that we're at the end of the convention week that we've seen all four nights of this, I'm curious who you all think this convention was really for.

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Who were the Republicans trying to reach out to these past four days?

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I think what he was they were trying to reach out to voters who didn't vote in 2016, but they have the profile of a typical Trump voter, white, non college. I think they were also reaching out to people who drifted away. You know, his numbers have dropped among seniors, suburban women for sure. They defected en masse in twenty eighteen to give the Democrats the House back. So I think that he was trying to get seniors, independents, some suburban Republican women back and also energize the base that has stuck with him all along.

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I mean, certainly tonight he seemed to be speaking to the people that are tired of the chaos and saying, look at me, I, I can I can read from a teleprompter. I'm not I'm not going to bring the chaos. And in fact, my opponent is the one who will bring the chaos.

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It really does seem targeted at the sort of more moderate Republican who may be swayed by the idea of Joe Biden as being, you know, a stability choice.

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I was talking to Frank Luntz, the pollster, and and he was saying that as he's talking to voters, people keep talking about stability and wanting just like safety and stability. And Trump was trying to make the pitch that he can do that. You know, I agree.

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I mean, like Mara sometimes talks about like the red meat that that Trump and the and the Republicans were feeding the base. I mean, there was a lot of that with all the kind of apocalyptic talk throughout the week. But I also found it very interesting about the diversity of the people on the stage. It's clear that Republicans were trying to soften Trump. I mean, so many we heard Ben Carson, Secretary Carson, say today about how they are pushing back against accusations that Trump is a racist.

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President Trump does not dabble in identity politics. He wants everyone to succeed and believe. Believes in the adage, a rising tide lifts all boats, many on the other side love to incite division by claiming that President Trump is a racist, they could not be more wrong.

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I mean, it was an impressive amount of diversity on the stage. I mean, I. I was curious, Tam. I mean, you were there. What was the diversity in the audience and how did that compare to, you know, the people we saw on the stage every day?

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There was not a lot of diversity in the audience. Yeah.

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I mean, there simply wasn't there was a lot more diversity represented in in the speakers list than, you know, than than I have traditionally seen at Trump events or or saw it at this event tonight.

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That's a feat that's a feature of Republican conventions every four years. Oh, of course. Point out that there are more African-Americans on the stage than are in the delegate audience. I think that's true.

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But I think that they did a very good job of making the party seem much more diverse than the Trump coalition than it actually is.

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Right. Like the Trump coalition is, is quite narrow. It's even more narrow than past Republican presidents have enjoyed. But you would not get that impression, especially where they gave African-American speakers primetime slots. I think every night some of the most compelling stories were from non-white speakers.

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But the Trump coalition is still really anchored in working class white men, which is why I think those messages of what Mara was saying about law and order and American identity were really what punctuated throughout the evening. Yeah.

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So I guess the question is now, where does the campaign go from here? I mean, the the candidates are still kind of stifled from traditional campaigning. We've got a debate. I believe it's about a month from now. What's September going to be like?

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I think we will see a little campaigning. I mean, it's not going to be like it was, you know, like I keep thinking about how little travel I've done. Like, I left my house and I went to the White House today and it felt like a pretty big campaign trip. But I think that that Biden said today that they're going to start trying to get out there at least a little bit after Labor Day. President Trump on Friday, as are later today, has a rally in New Hampshire.

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I think the debates loom larger. I think there will be some campaigning, but I think it just makes the debates even more important than they are.

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They're probably the only game changing events that are going to happen between now and Election Day. And Joe Biden gets another chance to prove that he is not the sleepy, senile character that the Trump campaign is painting him to be. And Trump gets a chance to see if he can do something to change the dynamic of this race, which I think is still winnable for him.

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But right now, he's been behind in almost every public poll for the last, you know, five months.

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Yeah, I mean, that was one of my takeaways just watching tonight. As you know, I think I looked I think we're about 60, almost 70 days away from the election. And not that elections are ever Kumbia events in modern politics, but it just feels like it's going to be a total slugfest in November. And I think the president tonight in his speech made clear that, like his his way to win is he's really got a bloody Joe Biden up.

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He's got to change the way people look at him. He kind of made fun of his empathy tonight, going after his character, going out his ideology. Like this is not an election where it's, you know, my opponent's a good man. He's just not the right man for the job. Right.

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This is an election where it's like my opponent's a bad man and he's going to be bad for this country.

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Any incumbent that has a net disapproval of like, what is it now, nine, 10 points. That's their only shot. That's their only hope of getting re-elected is to totally discredit their opponent.

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Well, on a personal note, my one sadness about tonight is normally if this was a normal year, we would all be covering this convention together. And tonight would be the night where we would all gather probably at our hotel bar and have a drink together and hang out and talk about the last two weeks of our convention life. And we didn't get to do that. But I miss you guys and I hope you had fun covering conventions.

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Well, we miss you, too. Get out. Get out.

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I was having that sad thought as I was walking up to the White House, but we're we're doing this all alone. We got to do all the convention coverage and none of the convention partying.

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Zoome Happy hour tomorrow night, guys. Won't be the same. It won't be the same. All right. That's a wrap for conventions will be back in your feeds tomorrow with our weekly news roundup. I'm Susan Davis. I cover Congress. I'm Frank Cordona. As I cover the White House, I'm Tamara Keith. I cover the White House.

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And I'm Mara Liasson, national political correspondent. And thank you for listening to the NPR Politics podcast. The economy can be confusing, especially these days. That's why this summer, Planet Money is helping you with the answers. Kick back and listen to our special series, Summer School at eight week course in Economics that you'll actually love.

[00:15:04]

Listen now to Planet Money from NPR.