The show starts at 8:30 p.m. ET. If you’d prefer to watch online, here’s your embedded feed. Read on.
Where things stand ratings-wise after night one:
RNC RATINGS, Night One:
~16 million TV viewers, lower than the 19 million who watched the Dems’ opening night
Giant number for Fox News: 7.1 million, its highest-rated convention opener ever. MSNBC fell sharply from last week.
(Figures don’t include online/streaming views.)
— Michael M. Grynbaum (@grynbaum) August 25, 2020
After tonight, we’ll officially be more than halfway through the total number of Trumps set to speak at the convention. Yesterday brought us a keynote from Don Jr; tonight we’ll see a pair of “lesser” Trumps, Eric and Tiffany, followed by a keynote from FLOTUS. (Ivanka and Lara Trump are still to come.) Non-royals on the schedule include Pam Bondi and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds as well as Covington Catholic teen Nick Sandmann, who’ll be expected to deliver red meat about the suckiness of American media despite his tender age. It may be worth watching this on CNN for the sheer enjoyment of seeing Sandmann gloat about his defamation settlement from the network on its own airwaves.
The most interesting speaker on tap is Mike Pompeo, for three reasons. One is his choice of venue. He’s not giving his address at the White House or Charlotte, or even on American soil. He’s in Jerusalem, presumably to tout the UAE/Israel normalization deal — a bona fide major accomplishment for Trump — and to highlight for evangelical voters Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy there in 2017. And yes, evangelicals probably do need a nudge to stick with the president. Most will, but margins matter and Biden’s making a play to reduce Trump’s margins this year.
Two is the fact that Pompeo’s speaking at all. Typically the secretary of state doesn’t participate in partisan political pageants; as the country’s top diplomat, he/she is supposed to represent America’s face to the world, not the party’s face to voters. Pompeo’s going to take a leak on that norm tonight to complement Trump taking a leak on the norm that the president shouldn’t campaign from the White House.
Three is that Pompeo harbors presidential ambitions and has his eye on 2024. If you’re thinking “Who the hell are the ‘Pompeo voters’ among the GOP base?”, you’re not alone.
“By speaking in Jerusalem, he is speaking to the evangelical segment of the Republican Party,” said Tamara Cofman Wittes, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for Middle East policy during the Obama administration who is now at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
“We know Pompeo has broader political ambitions,” Ms. Wittes said. “So is this for Trump? Is this for Pompeo? It’s probably for both.”…
“I assume that Pompeo is like any other ambitious politician,” said Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “He has the future in mind, and certainly wrapping up the evangelical vote for 2024 is absolutely critical to the success of any Republican candidate. I can’t imagine it’s not in the back of his mind.”
Mike Pence’s evangelical credentials are every bit as impeccable as Pompeo’s, if not more so, and his name recognition is much higher by dint of being VP. If you’re a Republican voter looking for a Trump administration alumnus to support in 2024, why would you opt for his secretary of state instead of his vice president?
Then again, why would you opt for his vice president instead of his son?
Tim Miller has a piece today inspired by Nikki Haley’s speech last night about “Earth Two Trumpers.” Those are the traditional Republicans who, like Haley, focus only on the parts of Trump’s record that jibe with traditional Republicanism and politely overlook all the stuff that doesn’t. (The name comes from the idea that, on Earth Two, Trump really is the hawkish, small-government Reaganesque figure they make him out to be.) Sending anti-tank missiles to Ukraine is a classic example of something an ETT would mention in a speech; shaking down Ukraine’s leader for Biden dirt, or standing next to Putin at Helsinki and undermining U.S. intelligence, or making kissy faces with Kim Jong Un, are classic examples of things that go unmentioned. Pompeo’s speech tonight should be a memorable entry in the ETT canon. Let’s just hope POTUS doesn’t inadvertently counterprogram the message the way he did last night with Haley by airing this exchange with Pastor Andrew Brunson:
After the pastor, Andrew Brunson, shared his gratitude for being brought home, Trump told him, “I have to say, that to me, President Erdogan was very good.”
That would be Recep Tayyip Erdoğan — the brutal Turkish dictator whose government had imprisoned Brunson in the first place…
Trump has gotten himself in hot water before with his paeans to tyrants. But this was especially cringe-worthy, given how Trump’s bizarre annotation distracted from what otherwise was shaping up as powerful, unifying moment.
That’s a little like inviting Alexei Navalny to the Oval Office and praising Putin for being so kind as to let him leave for Germany after he was poisoned. Fortunately, such things never happen on Earth Two.
Anyway, I hope this speech is worth the trouble for Pompeo:
BREAKING: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s decision to speak at the RNC tonight is now under investigation by the House.
— Ayman Mohyeldin (@AymanM) August 25, 2020
Here’s the Twitter widget for live commentary during the proceedings, and of course the comment thread below is open. As for Melania Trump, it’s a good thing the convention is happening now instead of, say, two weeks from now. Word circulated yesterday that a friend with whom she’s had a falling out is coming out with a book claiming that FLOTUS has been known to badmouth various members of the family, including the president. Just more fake news? Maybe not. Supposedly there are tapes. Imagine if they had leaked before her speech tonight.