WASHINGTON — The opening night of the 2020 Republican National Convention (RNC) on Monday saw Republicans scrambling to defend U.S. President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 5.7 million people in the country, with roughly 177,000 deaths.
Speaking at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C., Louisiana oral surgeon G.E. Ghali, who had recovered from the disease, said that the country’s “medical investigation and drug development systems were not designed for a pandemic.” Ghali claimed that Trump has “cleared away the red tape that usually makes drug approvals a long and drawn out process” and that his administration’s program is “accelerating the testing, supply, development and distribution of therapeutics, diagnostics, and very shortly, effective vaccines to counter COVID-19.”
The remarks came hours after the latest poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed that the public approval on Trump’s handling of the pandemic has dropped to 31 percent.The figure represents a 13-point decline from a similar survey in March, when the pandemic first took hold. Trump’s overall job approval rating also dropped to 35 percent from 43 percent in March, according to the poll. Trump also made an appearance at the virtual RNC on Monday night in a video with a group of frontline workers including two nurses, a postal worker, a truck driver, a custodian and a police officer in the East Room of the White House.
Neither Trump nor other participants wore masks. The White House has been testing Trump daily for coronavirus and also tests everyone who comes in close contact with him. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, said last month that the United States is not “doing great” in its response to the virus compared to other countries. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, and Donald Trump Jr, the president’s eldest son, were among the speakers for the RNC’s first night themed “Land of Promise,” which a Trump campaign official said honors “the promises President Donald J. Trump has kept since his first presidential campaign.”
Most of the speakers used their speeches to highlight what they believed as Trump’s achievements during the first term, make their cases for his reelection, and lash out at Democrats and 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. “Joe Biden and the Democrats are still blaming America first,” said Haley, also former governor of South Carolina. “Donald Trump has always put America first.” Biden, in a tweet on Monday night, said that Trump is “the only person responsible for our failed COVID response,” as the former U.S. vice president’s campaign has made it a central argument for his White House bid, the third in his nearly 50-year political career. “I don’t blame him for the COVID crisis. I blame him for walking away and not dealing with the solutions,” said Biden, referring to Trump, in his first joint interview with his running mate Senator Kamala Harris of California with ABC News, which aired on Sunday. “The idea of saying that this is going to go away, that some miracle is going to happen, there’s all talk about the crazy things about bleach and using, I mean it’s just, he hasn’t listened to the scientists,” Biden added.
Earlier on Monday, 336 delegates gathered in person at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, for a state-by-state roll call that formally nominated Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for the 2020 Republican presidential ticket. Both Trump and Pence delivered a speech at the convention center on Monday to thank the delegates for the renomination. The president will formally accept the Republican nomination for a second term from the White House South Lawn on Thursday night.