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The GOP sought to soften Trump’s edges while vilifying Biden at a convention focused on winning suburban voters – USA TODAY

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Daughter and advisor to the president, Ivanka Trump highlights his convictions at the Republican National Convention.

USA TODAY

Republicans wrapped up their four-day convention Thursday having achieved much of what they sought to do: renominating President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on the November ballot, energizing the party’s base and portraying Democratic nominee Joe Biden as a pawn of a leftist movement that would destroy America.

“This election will decide whether we will defend the American way of life, or whether we allow a radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy it,” Trump said Thursday on the South Lawn of the White House as he accepted his party’s nod.

After a convention that spent as much time bashing Biden as it did extolling Trump, the president hopes for a boost in several of the battleground states where polls show him trailing his Democratic rival.

Here are five takeaways from the GOP convention and what they mean for the 66 days left before the election Nov. 3:

Humanizing Trump while demonizing Biden

Trump has cultivated an image as a take-charge, bombastic tough guy who has been called a “bodyguard” for conservative ideals.

Convention speakers also painted the president as a man of compassion, someone who reached out personally to cancer victims, cares deep down about the plight of the farmers, miners and steelworkers struggling economically, and has an abiding love for his country.

More: ‘Firewall against Nancy Pelosi’s agenda’: How Mitch McConnell became one of Donald Trump’s key confidantes

“More than any president in my lifetime, he’s acknowledged the importance of farmers and agriculture,” said Cris Peterson, a dairy farmer whose business was helped by Trump’s policies.

“From the day that I met him, he has only wanted to make this country the best it can be,” first lady Melania Trump said in her Rose Garden speech Tuesday. “America is in his heart.”

Several speakers took personal shots at Biden, whom they derided as forgetful, corrupt and a “coastal elite.”

“Joe Biden spit venom at an autoworker who dared to question Joe’s intent to dismantle the Second Amendment,” said Charlie Kirk, head of Turning Point-USA.

More: Even as president, Donald Trump takes a familiar stance: The political outsider

Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, dubbed the former vice president “Beijing Biden” and the “Loch Ness monster of the swamp.”

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., said Biden doesn’t seem to care about “the working man.”

“Millions of good manufacturing jobs were shipped overseas during the Obama-Biden years, to countries like China,” Scalise said. “Donald Trump brought those jobs back.”

‘Abolish the suburbs’

In a bid to recapture upwardly mobile women he’ll probably need for victory, Trump’s allies painted a grim future of the suburbs under Biden.

That message was exemplified by Mark and Patricia McCloskey, a St. Louis couple who drew nationwide attention for pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters passing their house in June.

The couple, speaking from their home, warned  that the quality of life in the suburbs would be at risk of destruction under a Biden administration.

“When we don’t have basic safety and security in our communities, we will never be free to build a brighter future for ourselves, for our children and for our country,” said Patty McCloskey, who praised Trump for rolling back an Obama-era rule designed to expand affordable housing to middle-income communities.

“They are not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence into our communities, they want to abolish the suburbs altogether by ending single-family home zoning,” she said. “This forced rezoning would bring crime, lawlessness and low-quality apartments into thriving suburban neighborhoods. President Trump smartly ended this government overreach, but Joe Biden wants to bring it back.”

More: Hundreds of former Bush and Romney staffers endorse Joe Biden ahead of Trump RNC speech

Trump narrowly won white women (47%-45%) in 2016 against Hillary Clinton,  according to a Pew Research Center study. He’s struggling with these voters in 2020. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in July showed him lagging Biden among suburban women, 39% to 56%.

Republican strategist Alice Stewart said suburban women will come back to Trump, given his law-and-order message at a time of growing civil unrest.

“They want safety and security,” she said on CNN Tuesday. “Joe Biden, no doubt a man of compassion and empathy. But it’s not about voters, and specifically women, wanting someone that makes them feel good. They want someone that makes them feel safe.”

A lineup of loyalists minus the moderates

Unlike the Democratic National Convention, where centrist Republicans such as former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman spoke on behalf of Biden last week, the roster of RNC speakers largely featured family, staff members and loyal allies.

There were relatives of crime victims, a female Marine Corps veteran and a democracy activist from China showering praise on Trump – or disdain on Biden. But most of the keynote messages were by Pence, the president’s children or advisers such as Kellyanne Conway.

He confides in and consults us, respects our opinions and insists that we are on equal footing with the men,” Conway said Wednesday in a speech in which she cast the president as a champion of women.

New Jersey Congressman Jefferson Van Drew, who switched parties in December and became a Republican after Trump courted him, appeared on the GOP stage to praise the president and tell viewers how much his old party is peddling a “radical, socialist agenda.”

“In President Trump’s America, we have a strong supply chain, good schools, we’re energy independent and protect our environment,” he said. “There are a lot of Democrats who support our President…and are disgusted for what their old party  – what my old party – has become.””

Defending Trump‘s record on the coronavirus

The GOP convention was an opportunity to try to bolster confidence in Trump’s handling of the coronavirus that has killed more than 180,000 Americans and upended daily life.

There were testimonials about his decision to curtail travel from China (though not the total ban he often claims) and about his promotion of certain therapies (some of which have been oversold, according to medical experts), his efforts to distribute protective gear to states (many of which complained they didn’t get enough) and his push for a vaccine by the end of the year.

“I can tell you without hesitation, Donald Trump’s quick action and leadership saved thousands of lives during COVID-19,” Amy Johnson Ford, a registered nurse from Williamson, West Virginia, told Monday’s convention audience.

Those efforts to showcase the administration’s work to combat the spread of the virus were undercut by news reports this week that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was pressured by political interests to discourage testing for those not showing symptoms even though the virus can spread before symptoms appear.

Thursday, CDC Director Robert Redfield backtracked by announcing that those who come in close contact with a confirmed or probable COVID-19 patient could be tested, even if they don’t show symptoms.

Tapping into the power of the incumbency

Trump built a following on his promises to “drain the swamp” and upend the failing institutions of government. The convention offered the former reality TV star a chance to flex his governmental powers before the millions who watched.

There he was in the White House issuing a pardon, swearing in newly naturalized citizens and meeting with hostages released from foreign countries under his watch.

He let Secretary of State Mike Pompeo beam a political message of support during a diplomatic trip in Israel, in what critics such as Wendy Sherman, a former State Department officialsaid broke long-standing protocol and perhaps the State Department’s own policy on engaging in partisan political activity.

Trump’s supporters said the president had to readjust the convention logistics after the two states picked to host its main events – Florida and North Carolina – limited gatherings because of the coronavirus.

Democrats and government watchdogs said the president’s use of the White House as a backdrop for speeches – including Trump’s address accepting the nomination – and ceremony is an abuse that needs to be investigated.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said it’s another sign of Trump’s “unethical” behavior and disregard of tradition.

“All the rules, norms, values that have made this country great, Donald Trump will destroy them. He only cares about himself,” he said on C-SPAN Wednesday. “The rules are you shouldn’t sit at the White House and give a speech at a (political) convention. Donald Trump says, ‘I want to do it,’ so they do it.”

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