Vice President Mike Pence will make an economic pitch to re-elect U.S. President Donald Trump at a Republican National Convention that resumed on Wednesday under the shadow of protests over the police shooting of a Black man in Wisconsin.
Trump, who has stressed his law-and-order agenda at the convention, said before the start of a third night's session that he would send federal law enforcement into Kenosha, Wisconsin, with the agreement of the state's governor.
Three people were shot, two fatally, on the third night of unrest on Tuesday. A teenager who authorities said was acting as a vigilante was arrested on homicide charges.
The violence in Kenosha was sparked when police shot Jacob Blake, 29, multiple times in the back at close range on Sunday, reigniting protests against racism and police brutality that erupted across the United States earlier in the summer.
"We will NOT stand for looting, arson, violence, and lawlessness on American streets," Trump said on Twitter.
The first two nights of the convention featured grim warnings from Republicans about a return to lawlessness if Trump is not re-elected in November. Speakers included a St. Louis couple who had brandished guns at a Black Lives Matter protest.
Democrats have characterized Trump's law-and-order focus as a diversion from what they say is the president's mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 178,000 Americans and cost the jobs of tens of millions of people.
Trump, 74, trails Democratic challenger Joe Biden, 77, in opinion polls ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
Biden said he spoke with Blake's family and, like the family, called for an end to the violence. But, unlike Trump who has yet to comment on the police shooting, Biden called for justice and defended the right to protest.
"Protesting brutality is a right and absolutely necessary, but burning down communities is not protest. It's needless violence," Biden said in a video posted by his campaign.
BLURRING THE LINES
Pence will deliver his speech at the Fort McHenry National Monument in Baltimore, Maryland — a federal facility that is the site of the battle during the War of 1812 that inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Like other Republicans, Pence will seek to reshape the narrative around the economy by largely ignoring millions of jobs lost to the pandemic. Despite lagging behind Biden in opinion polls, Trump gets higher marks as a steward of the economy than his Democratic rival.
Democrats and other critics accuse Trump and Republicans of inappropriately blurring the lines between government and partisan politics during the convention, using many of the trappings of office for his re-election campaign.
Tuesday night's convention program from the White House included a citizenship naturalization ceremony, overseen by Trump and the acting secretary of homeland security, and a presidential pardon.
A White House official said the naturalization ceremony and pardon were official White House events. The footage was posted on a public website ahead of the convention broadcast and the campaign was free to use that content, the official said.
Pence, who had faced speculation he would be dropped from the ticket, was expected to highlight the administration's record in his speech as well as goals for a second term.
The former Indiana governor and congressman, a conservative Christian, served as a key connector between Trump and evangelical voters, an influential part of the Republican political base.
Pence will be expected to defend the administration's response to the pandemic. He was put in charge of the Trump administration's response in the outbreak's early days, although Trump quickly became the face of the White House response and has been criticized for minimizing the threat from the virus.
The political fallout also hit Trump's re-election campaign, cutting into his support in opinion polls, which show Americans trust Biden more than Trump to handle the pandemic.
A White House official said Pence would offer an optimistic vision for the country while providing a contrast with Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California.
At their own party convention last week, Biden and Harris warned Americans against giving Trump another four years in the White House.
Other speakers scheduled on Wednesday include second lady Karen Pence, Senators Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Joni Ernst of Iowa, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, and Kellyanne Conway, who announced earlier this week that she would be stepping down as a White House adviser.