President Donald Trump is relying on his family to help reignite a re-election campaign derailed by the coronavirus pandemic, as Republicans begin their four-day national convention on Monday.
While the Democrats last week opted for a fully virtual affair, with Joe Biden winning plaudits for delivering a powerful speech, the Republican convention is scheduled to be a mixture of online and in-person events.
Mr Trump’s list of speakers includes a string of his own family members and relatives, including first lady Melania Trump, and his children Donald Jr, Tiffany, Ivanka and Eric, along with Eric’s wife Lara Trump.
While Mr Trump will not travel to Charlotte, North Carolina, as planned, he will make an appearance at Asheville in the same state.
Speaking on CBS on Sunday morning, Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel fended off suggestions that in-person gatherings were unsafe while coronavirus continues to ravage the US.
“I think it’s really important to understand that the Democrats and Joe Biden just said we’re going to shut this country down again,” said Ms McDaniel, referring to an interview given by Mr Biden in which he said he would reimplement lockdowns if advised to do so by scientists.
Both campaigns are making the coronavirus crisis a key debate issue, with Democrats attacking Republicans for the relatively high death rates in the US and the Trump campaign threatening that Mr Biden would lead the country back into closure.
On Sunday, Ms McDaniel described Mr Biden’s admission that he would be willing to close things down again as “a really elite view of America right now”, and said there would be on-site testing available at the Republican events.
Current and former White House staffers, including Larry Kudlow, the national economic adviser, Rudy Giuliani, Mr Trump’s personal lawyer, and Dan Scavino, the deputy chief of staff for communications, are all scheduled to speak in coming days.
Making a rare appearance at a domestic political campaign event by a cabinet-level official, secretary of state Mike Pompeo is set to address the convention from Israel, where he will be travelling on official business.
Several rightwing media stars will also makes an appearance, including Missouri couple Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who were filmed brandishing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters in St Louis, and Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann, who sued the Washington Post for defamation over its coverage of a stand-off between himself and a Native American elder.
A list of speakers released at the weekend included a full roster of Trumps. But the appearance of first-family unity was undercut with the release of leaked tapes in which Mr Trump’s older sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, is heard referring to her brother as “unprincipled” and a liar.
“His goddamned tweet and lying, oh my God,” said Ms Barry on the tapes, according to excerpts released by the Washington Post. “I’m talking too freely, but you know. The change of stories. The lack of preparation. The lying. Holy shit.”
In a conversation secretly recorded by Mr Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, author of the bestselling tell-all Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, Ms Barry said her brother was solely interested in appealing to “his base”.
“He has no principles. None. None,” she said. “And his base, I mean, my God, if you were a religious person, you want to help people. Not do this.”
On Sunday morning, Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller dismissed the accusations as “sibling rivalry”.
Republicans will be hoping that their convention boosts Mr Trump’s prospects as the Democratic equivalent did for Mr Biden last week.
New polling by ABC News shows that Mr Biden gained a 7 percentage point increase in favourability among Democrats following the convention, with a 5 percentage point increase among American voters more broadly.
The convention also provided a fundraising windfall for the Biden campaign, with around $70m pulled in over the course of the four day event.