Finley: Republican Convention Notebook

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Live from the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina:

Republicans will hold a much scaled down convention here today, highlighted by what is expected to be an unscheduled and as of this writing unannounced visit from President Donald Trump.

The president lands in Charlotte shortly before the GOP gathering is scheduled to end at 1 p.m. He's supposed to speak in the afternoon to agricultural workers in Mills River, about two hours away. Security was being beefed up in Uptown Charlotte in anticipation of protesters, who, as of Sunday night, hadn't showed up in significant numbers.

If they do come, it won't be hard for the protesters to outnumber convention attendees. There will be roughly 500 delegates and RNC members in the Charlotte Convention Center, which holds 6,000.

President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Mariotti Building Products, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, in Old Forge, Pa.

The streets of Charlotte are barricaded off and crowed -- but only with police officers and other security personnel. Most restaurants that are open are basically empty. 

► I sat down with Republican National Committee chair Ronna Romney McDaniel Sunday morning at the Westin Hotel, where most attendees are staying. The Michiganian says she anticipates national media coverage of the convention, which moves to a virtual stage for the rest of the week, will be far less favorable than what the Democrats enjoyed last week. So the GOP is deploying communications teams across the country to do interviews with local outlets. The party has also purchased 40 million email addresses and cell phone numbers, and will be sending out blasts all week. McDaniel says the message will be aimed at everyday Americans, and will tout how Trump has improved their lives. On another subject, McDaniel admits being worried about the U.S. Senate, where Republicans hold a four-seat majority. She's confident about picking up Alabama and Michigan, where John James is running hard against incumbent Democrat Gary Peters. But she frets about GOP incumbents in Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina and Maine, and to a lesser extent Iowa, Montana, and Georgia. For more, see my column today

► I caught up with Michigan Republican Party chair Laura Cox in downtown Charlotte. She confided that Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been a very good fundraiser for the GOP. Cox says the party has found that in fundraising calls, small donors respond well to messages about the governor's harsh shutdown orders. For $10, donors can get either a "Fire Whitmer" face mask or a "Whitmer Yacht Club" beer koozie. Cox will announce the Michigan delegates awarded to Trump during the state-by-state roll call today, and then head of to Washington, where she'll be in the White House to watch Trump's speech Thursday night.. For a more comprehensive report on what Cox is doing in Michigan, see the weekend piece from Beth LeBlanc.

► Speaking of the weekend, take a look at my Sunday column setting up what the Republicans must do during the convention this week. Basically, it comes down to making the prospect of a Joe Biden presidency look worse than a Trump second term to voters who worry about the country moving too far to the left. 

► Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is predicting a collapse of the BIden/Kamala Harris ticket well before the November election. 

► A second New York police union has endorsed Trump, underscoring the push-back against the Defund Police movement.

► One of the most interesting things I've seen so far is what appeared to be a Star Wars themed wedding in a parking lot outside my hotel. 

► If you're a barbeque lover -- and who isn't? -- Charlotte certainly lives up to its reputation as one of the premier pork purveyors in the nation.

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