Republican National Convention 2020: Day 2

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9:27 p.m. ET, August 25, 2020

RNC's Tuesday lineup shows how Trump's campaign views its path to 270 electoral votes

Analysis from CNN's Eric Bradner

The opening hour of Tuesday's Republican National Convention offered a clear window into how President Donald Trump's campaign believes it can reach 270 electoral votes.

Three early speakers, including a dairy farmer, hailed from Wisconsin. And a lobster farmer from Maine offered a narrow, but policy-focused, case for Trump's re-election.

Trump has trailed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, three states he won in 2016. Setting those aside, if he were to hold onto every other state he won that year, he'd have 259 electoral votes.

Many Republicans believe Trump's best shot at reversing his fortunes in the Upper Midwest is in Wisconsin, where a win would earn him 10 more electoral votes, totaling 269 — one away from victory.

And Maine, though a Democratic-leaning state, has two congressional districts —and splits its electoral votes, with two going to the statewide winner and one each going to the winner of those districts. If Trump were to lose the state, but win the 2nd District — a rural district where lobster farming is a major industry — he'd land at exactly 270 electoral votes and win a second term.

9:29 p.m. ET, August 25, 2020

Covington Catholic teen criticizes cancel culture in RNC speech

From CNN’s Maegan Vazquez

Nicholas Sandmann, a Kentucky teenager who was at the center of a viral video controversy, used his personal story to condemn cancel culture and argue that President Trump and conservatives are treated unfairly by the press. 

Sandmann was filmed while wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat with his student group at the Lincoln Memorial after his group encountered other groups of protesters. He sued numerous news organizations and so far, has reached settlements with The Washington Post and CNN.

Sandmann said in a speech at the Republican convention on Tuesday that after video of the interaction with protesters in Washington, DC, went public, his life changed forever.

Speaking about the lawsuits against news organizations, Sandmann said he “fought back hard to expose the media for what they did to me and I won a personal victory. While much more must be done, I look forward to the day that the media returns to providing balanced, responsible and accountable news coverage.” 

“I know President Trump hopes for that too,” he continued. “And I know you’ll agree with me when we say no one in this county has been a victim of unfair media coverage more than President Donald Trump.”

10:07 p.m. ET, August 25, 2020

Van Jones: Trump pardon at political convention "cheapens it"

From CNN's Leinz Vales

CNN's Van Jones said Tuesday that he "loved" that President Donald Trump pardon John Ponder, a convicted bank robber, but added that he felt torn about the pardon, because it was done at the Republican National Convention.

"It's a very good thing to show the country that redemption is possible," Jones said. "But I think it cheapens it when you do it in a political convention, and you do it in a political way, because then it begins to look like you're just doing it as a stunt."

Jones, a former Obama administration official, who worked with the Trump administration on The First Step Act, a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill signed into law December 2018, said that Ponder was deserving of the clemency, but was inappropriate to be done at a political convention.

"What we need to do is fix the whole pardoning clemency process, make it rational, take it out of the Department of Justice and put it in the White House," Jones added. "I don't think it's appropriate to do it at a political convention, because I think you take up something that's very sacred, a sacred power the President has. And you wind up cheapening it and using it as a political stunt."

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12:04 a.m. ET, August 26, 2020

Facts check: Claims on the Obama vs. Trump economies

From CNN's Anneken Tappe

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow claimed that President Donald Trump inherited a “stagnant economy on the front end of recession” from the Obama administration, adding that the Trump White House rebuilt the economy in three years. 

Facts firstThis is misleading. The US economy was growing 1.7% in 2016 when Trump was elected. It continued to grow after he took office, especially after the 2017 tax cuts. 

America emerged from the Great Recession in the third quarter of 2009 and grew continuously with only a few hiccups – small GDP declines in 2011 and 2014 -- from there on out throughout the rest of President Barack Obama’s presidency. The length of the expansion provoked fears of a slowdown, but the Republican-led tax cuts in 2017 produced additional growth in 2018.   

In 2019, the US economy broke the record as the longest expansion in history, but economists grew concerned that the expansion might have run its course. Slowing global economic growth and a contracting manufacturing sector in the United States were among the biggest concerns, even before the coronavirus pandemic tipped the US into recession. 

Read more from CNN’s Tara Subramaniam and Katie Lobosco here.

12:40 a.m. ET, August 26, 2020

Kudlow praises Trump's leadership during coronavirus: "Our economic choice is very clear"

Larry Kudlow, Director of the United States National Economic Council.
Larry Kudlow, Director of the United States National Economic Council. Republican national Convention

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow used his Republican National Convention address to tout President Trump's economic policies and his leadership during the coronavirus pandemic.

Kudlow said that the country is coming out of hardship, and the economic health is "coming back.

"Then came a once in 100 year pandemic. It was awful. Health and economic impacts were tragic. Hardship and heartbreak were everywhere. But presidential leadership came swiftly and effectively, with an extraordinary rescue for health and safety to successfully fight the coronavirus," Kudlow said.

Kudlow praised Trump's measures during Covid-19 and said the "bipartisan rescue also saved the economy."

"Right now, our economic health is coming back with emergency spending and tax cuts, Americans are going back to work," Kudlow said. "There's a housing boom, there's an auto boom, a manufacturing boom, a consumer spending boom."

The adviser said "looking ahead" more tax cuts and regulatory roll back will be "in store."

Kudlow said the "economic choice is very clear" this election.

"Coming out of the deep pandemic, who in their right mind would pick the pockets of taxpayers and drain money from their wallets and purses. Look, our economic choice is very clear. Do you want economic health, prosperity, opportunity and optimism or do you want to turn back to the dark days of stagnation, recession and pessimism? I believe there can't be better economic policies than we've had in recent years. So I say, stay with them," Kudlow said in closing.

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9:25 p.m. ET, August 25, 2020

Evangelical community backs Trump, says he's "giving hope to people of faith around the world"

Analysis from CNN's Kevin Liptak

Cissie Graham Lynch, the granddaughter of famous evangelist Billy Graham.
Cissie Graham Lynch, the granddaughter of famous evangelist Billy Graham. Republican National Convention

President Donald Trump’s ties to the Evangelical community have always been somewhat nebulous. A thrice-married New Yorker with no previous record as a church-goer who once declared himself “very pro-choice,” he wasn’t the first choice for many in 2016 and worked hard to convince conservative Christians he was on their side — including by selecting Mike Pence as his running mate.

Perhaps because his personality didn’t seem to jive with any definition of Christian morality, Trump’s attempts to woo evangelicals have often seemed outsized. He was the first President to address the anti-abortion March for Life in Washington; he has posed for photographs with pastors laying their hands on him to pray; and he has acknowledged that his decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem appeals specifically to Christians.

There have been missteps, including Trump’s photo-op outside a church across from the White House during protests. His awkward handling of a Bible was decried by many religious leaders as craven. At various points during his presidency, Trump has expressed concern to aides that support among Evangelicals might be slipping.

But while his support may have slid somewhat, a large majority of White evangelicals still support him — and their voices were prominent on Tuesday. 

Cissie Graham Lynch, the granddaughter of famous evangelist Billy Graham, said Trump was "giving hope to people of faith around the world.”

And Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood worker who now opposes abortion, called Trump “the most pro-life President we’ve ever had.” 

Unmentioned in all of it was the current scandal rocking evangelical circles: the dramatic downfall of Jerry Falwell Jr., who resigned as president of Liberty University on Tuesday after reports he and his wife took part in a sexual relationship with a former hotel pool attendant. 

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9:08 p.m. ET, August 25, 2020

Trump's policies highlighted by every day Americans

Analysis from CNN's Kevin Liptak

Republican convention planners determined early on they wanted to highlight everyday Americans who they say have benefited from policies Trump put in place.

Their goal has been to portray a leader focused squarely on improving peoples’ lives — even as many Americans now find themselves self-quarantined, out of work, unable to travel or suffering from the loss of a loved one.

Amid the baleful tone of Monday night’s programming, the helper-in-chief idea didn’t necessarily penetrate, but the efforts seemed more clear Tuesday with speeches from a lobster fisherman in Maine, a dairy farmer from Wisconsin and the owner of a metal fabrication business who says Trump’s new North American trade agreement has made his business more competitive. 

“As long as Trump is president, fishing families like mine will have a voice,” said Jason Joyce, the lobsterman. “I strongly support President Trump’s re-election. When he sees something isn't right, he’s fearless in fixing it. He listens to working people.”

Trump’s aides believe individual stories like that can help convince voters Trump is looking out for them more broadly — and rebut accusations made by Democrats that he simply doesn’t care about the lives of ordinary Americans.

Trump ran as a populist who insisted he would enact policies that benefit the so-called “forgotten” Americans that he claimed both parties had left behind. Once he entered office, however, his legislative agenda didn’t always reflect those promises — including passing massive corporate tax breaks.

 Those haven’t been mentioned much during the convention so far. But Trump’s trade agreements have been front and center.

Trump himself has framed the efforts in more starkly political terms. He has focused in particular on farmers, telling aides they are his “people” — in other words, they voted for him — and must be taken care of. In real terms, that has meant massive subsidies as farmers suffered the effects of a tit-for-tat tariff war with China.

The benefits to Americans from Trump’s China trade deal aren’t as clear-cut as the convention would make them seem. Earlier Tuesday, new data was released showing China’s purchases of goods from the United States remained at less than half the committed targets for the year up to July set out in Trump’s Phase One trade deal.

In private, Trump has been less enthusiastic about efforts that don’t seem to have an obvious political upside. That includes on criminal justice reform, an initiative spearheaded by his son-in-law Jared Kushner that Trump endorsed but has not made a central aspect of his reelection bid.

It will appear at moments during the convention, including on Tuesday when Trump pardoned Jon Ponder, who robbed a bank in Nevada and later founded an organization to help former inmates. Alice Johnson, whose pardon was brought to Trump by Kim Kardashian West, is also a scheduled speaker this week.

9:18 p.m. ET, August 25, 2020

Why this lobster fisherman says he's voting for Trump

Lobster fisherman Jason Joyce.
Lobster fisherman Jason Joyce. Republican National Convention

Jason Joyce, an eighth generation lobster fisherman from Maine, didn't always support President Trump.

"I have to confess I didn't support Trump in 2016, skeptical that he shared my conservative views, I expected him to flip flop on his campaign promises," he said during his Republican National Convention speech tonight.

Joyce said he has had a change of heart.

Trump, he said, "has followed through on his promises" and has helped boost the Maine's lobster industry.

"As long as Trump is president, fishing families like mine will have a voice," Joyce said.

"I strongly support President Trump’s reelection. When he sees something isn't right, he’s fearless in fixing it. He listens to working people," he saidWatch:

9:18 p.m. ET, August 25, 2020

Rand Paul praises Trump's efforts to exit foreign wars

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul.
Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul. Republican National Convention

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul used his remarks at the Republican convention Tuesday night to praise many of President Donald Trump’s policies, especially his efforts to avoid foreign wars. 

When Paul ran against Trump in 2016, he called his opponent an “orange windbag,” a “fake conservative," and a “delusional narcissist.” 

In his 2020 convention speech, Paul admitted, “I don’t always agree with him. But our occasional policy differences are far outweighed by our significant agreements. But more important than simple agreement is accomplishment. President Donald Trump gets things done.” 

Paul praised Trump’s tax plan, the President’s willingness to engage in health care deregulation efforts, and his work on criminal justice reform. 

Paul, long a critic of military intervention, said he fears Joe Biden will engage in foreign wars if elected president. 

Trump has frequently decried the US' penchant for "endless wars" and in office, his administration has withdrawn troops from areas of conflict, such as Syria, and allied nations, like Germany.

“Joe Biden voted for the Iraq War, which President Trump has long called the worst geopolitical mistake of our generation. I fear Biden will choose war again. He supported war in Serbia, Syria, Libya. Joe Biden will continue to spill our blood and treasure. President Trump will bring our heroes home,” Paul said. “If you hate war like I hate war, if you want us to quit sending $50 billion every year to Afghanistan to build their roads and their bridges instead of building them here at home, you need to support President Trump for another term!” 

Watch: