POLITICS

What to Watch for at R.N.C.: Two of Trump’s Most Faithful Allies Will Headline

The third night of the Republican National Convention will build on the themes laid out earlier this week, casting President Trump as the barrier to a changing America and his re-election as a moral imperative.

Wednesday night’s lineup features an array of guests and White House officials. It will also continue the trend of having family members speak on Mr. Trump’s behalf. Tonight’s list of speakers includes fewer fanatic Trumpians than the first two nights, but it is still firmly rooted in conservative orthodoxy.

The keynote speaker is Vice President Mike Pence, the former governor of Indiana and staunch evangelical conservative who has loyally stood by Mr. Trump even in times of crisis. As the religious face of the administration, the speech will give Mr. Pence an opportunity to make the case for Mr. Trump from a conservative Christian perspective, a key asset in his political appeal and future within the Republican Party.

It will also be Mr. Pence’s night to stake his claim in the party’s jockeying for post-Trump presidential positioning. Previous speakers this week, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, and Donald Trump Jr., have ignited presidential speculation after their convention speeches.

Also speaking tonight is Karen Pence, Mr. Pence’s wife and the second lady of the United States. She will be joined by three of the most visible Republican women in this election cycle — the White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa. Each of those three women is navigating unique circumstances at the moment: Ms. Conway recently announced her intentions to leave the White House, Ms. Noem has recently become a favorite of Mr. Trump and conservative news media, and Ms. Ernst is facing a difficult senate primary in a race Republicans cannot stand to lose.

Other speakers include Representative Lee Zeldin of New York; Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law; and Keith Kellogg, one of Mr. Pence’s national security advisers.

Since the beginning of his presidency, Mr. Trump has tried to fashion himself as a “law and order” president, whose willingness to be tough on crime — and more recently to punish protesters — would keep Americans safe. But those attempts have rarely squared with reality. Mr. Trump has repeatedly been accused of bucking both law and tradition, and several members of his 2016 campaign have since been arrested and convicted of crimes.

On Wednesday, and with Mr. Pence as a willing vessel, the campaign is poised to make clear exactly what it means by “law and order.” There will likely be a denouncement of this week’s protesting and destruction in Wisconsin, which started after a police officer shot an unarmed Black man in a confrontation that was caught on camera. But will Republicans mention the officer’s actions — or the armed militia members who were arrested on Wednesday for fatally shooting two protesters?

One sign that Republicans are not feeling confident in their current electoral position: Ms. Ernst is one of the few vulnerable senators receiving a speaking slot at the convention. There are no appearances from purple state incumbents seeking to stave off Democratic challengers in states like Maine, North Carolina, Arizona or Georgia. Instead, candidates have tried to put some distance between themselves and Mr. Trump, to the extent that voters will see them as individuals separate from their party’s controversy-courting president.

It stands in contrast to the Democratic convention last week, where several Senate candidates made appearances. This year, in addition to the November general election between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden, a slew of Senate races could give Democrats control of the upper House.


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