POLITICO Playbook: The Republicans' reality

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DRIVING THE DAY

PLUG IN WITH PLAYBOOK’S CONVENTION WEEK LINEUP: 9 a.m. today: Trump campaign manager BILL STEPIEN NEW: Wednesday at 9 a.m.: MARK MEADOWS, the White House chief of staff … Thursday at 9 a.m.: JARED KUSHNER.

ABOUT LAST NIGHT — RED, WHITES AND BLUES, triumphant and bold music in a dramatic, high-ceilinged banquet hall, coupled with a gloomy dark portrait of Democrats — the Republican convention kicked off Monday evening in Washington with a full-throated defense of President DONALD TRUMP and his governance in the middle of a pandemic that has killed more than 177,000 Americans in six months.

THE DUELING THEMES of the two campaigns — PROMISES MADE, PROMISES KEPT versus BUILD BACK BETTER offer much of what you need to know about how the two parties see the 2020 election: Republicans are trying to force Americans to think back to before this virus, for which TRUMP takes no responsibility. DEMOCRATS are offering JOE BIDEN and KAMALA HARRIS as a fever-reducing Advil, of sorts, to rid the country of what they consider the virus of Trumpism.

AS NEARLY ALL THE COVERAGE REFLECTS, there was a fair bit of revisionist history in the GOP programming Monday night. (Keep reading for that.) But, in just one sense, the proceedings were a bit more tethered to reality in that they positioned REPUBLICANS and DEMOCRATS as warring tribes locked in continual conflict instead of two parties on the brink of a peace accord.

AS MAYA KING and SAM MINTZ put it, REPUBLICANS went “all in” on race on night one. “For a president credibly accused of stoking racial fears and divisions throughout his term, Trump, with his choice of speakers, leaned hard into the topic during the first night of his convention on Monday.”

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-S.C.) — the only Black Republican senator — offered a line that will be quoted for years to come: “Our family went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime. That’s why I believe the next American century can be better than the last.”

HOW IT PLAYED … NYT FRONT PAGE: “TRUMP NOMINATED AS G.O.P. DELIVERS OMINOUS MESSAGE: NEWS ANALYSIS: ‘Focus on Grievance Instead of Uplift’ … ‘Recasting History on Virus, Race and His Record’”

NYT, A1 … JONATHAN MARTIN, ALEX BURNS and ANNIE KARNI: “Hours after Republican delegates formally nominated Mr. Trump for a second term, the president and his party made plain that they intended to engage in sweeping revisionism about Mr. Trump’s management of the coronavirus pandemic, his record on race relations and much else. And they laid out a dystopian picture of what the United States would look like under a Biden administration, warning of a ‘vengeful mob’ that would lay waste to suburban communities and turn quiet neighborhoods into war zones.

“At times, the speakers and prerecorded videos appeared to be describing an alternate reality: one in which the nation was not nearing 180,000 deaths from the coronavirus; in which Mr. Trump had not consistently ignored serious warnings about the disease; in which the president had not spent much of his term appealing openly to xenophobia and racial animus; and in which someone other than Mr. Trump had presided over an economy that began crumbling in the spring.”

WAPO’S BOB COSTA, DAVE WEIGEL, FELICIA SONMEZ and JOHN WAGNER: “Republicans began their nominating convention Monday with dark denunciations of Democrats and warnings about a future controlled by ‘radical liberals,’ while praising President Trump’s stewardship of the country, including his handling of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 173,000 Americans. …

“The evening’s remarks, coupled with the president’s rambling and conspiratorial address earlier Monday to delegates convened in North Carolina, stood as a stark reminder of Trump’s domination of the party and its message — and largely overshadowed the GOP’s official and cheerier theme for the day, ‘Land of Promise.’”

LAT’S MARK BARABAK’S LEDE: “Welcome to a parallel universe.”

STEVEN SHEPARD: “The best, worst and weirdest moments of Night 1”: “Best attendance: Trump and Pence: After Biden accepted his party’s nomination without leaving his adopted hometown of Wilmington, Del., Republicans made a point of going to their convention host city. ‘I hope you realize the difference between Republican and Democrat[ic] conventions,’ House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) told delegates in Charlotte. ‘Our nominees show up.’ …

“Breakout star: The White House: It’s good to be the president. There’s a reason so few of them have lost their reelection campaigns.

“Trump’s campaign flexed all the muscles of incumbency on Monday night, cutting two videos from inside the White House — brushing aside any violations of federal law or protocol by politicking from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW — that included the president speaking with guests. In one, Trump talked with essential workers who coped with the coronavirus outbreak or contracted the virus themselves. In the other, the president greeted former prisoners overseas who his administration had repatriated. …

“Swampiest Setting: The convention set: [The Mellon Auditorium] was a fine setting: marble columns, American flags, an impressive backdrop. But it was a distinctly Washington setting — as were various cuts to the White House and famous D.C. monuments — for a president who has cast himself as a swamp-draining outsider, though the list of speakers did include some regular folks sprinkled in with the politicians and members of Trump’s family. Perhaps it’s not a choice Trump would have made in 2016. But now, as president, he may figure that the symbols of Washington reflect the office he holds, swampy symbolism or not.”

TIM ALBERTA: “What we learned from Night 1 of the Trump Show”

Good Tuesday morning.

MORE GOPERS DUMP TRUMP — “‘He’s going to be unleashed’: Republican DOJ appointees urge against Trump second term,” by Natasha Korecki: “A group of onetime Republican presidential appointees who served as senior ethics or Justice Department aides are endorsing Joe Biden for president, warning that Donald Trump has ‘weaponized’ the executive branch and is putting in peril the legitimacy of the U.S. Justice Department.

“‘I think a lot of us are extremely alarmed, frankly, at the threat of autocracy,’ Donald B. Ayer, former deputy attorney general during the George H.W. Bush administration, said in an interview with POLITICO. ‘He’s going to be unleashed if he gets a second term. I don’t know what’s going to stop him.’ The former officials endorsing Tuesday served under the Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations.” POLITICO

HOW THEY’LL RUN … KAREN HANDEL lost her suburban Atlanta House seat in the 2018 wave to Rep. LUCY MCBATH (D-Ga.) — HANDEL had beaten JON OSSOFF in a 2017 special election for the seat formerly held by NEWT GINGRICH.

— HANDEL is now running a TV ad attempting to tie MCBATH to violent protests around the country — saying MCBATH “supported those who attacked the police,” and vowing to stand up. The 30-second spot

BEYOND THE BELTWAY — “Kenosha protesters, police clash again after Black man shot,” by AP’s Mike Householder in Kenosha, Wis., and Tammy Webber in Fenton, Mich.: “Anger over the shooting of a Black man by police spilled into the streets of Kenosha for a second night Monday, with police again firing tear gas at hundreds of protesters who defied a curfew, threw bottles and shot fireworks at law enforcement guarding the courthouse.

“The southeastern Wisconsin city became the nation’s latest flashpoint in a summer of racial unrest after cellphone footage of police shooting Jacob Blake — apparently in the back, as he leaned into his SUV while his three children sat in the vehicle — circulated widely on social media Sunday. The 29-year-old was hospitalized in serious condition.

“The shooting drew condemnation from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who also called out 125 members of the National Guard on Monday after protesters set cars on fire, smashed windows and clashed with officers in riot gear the previous night.” AP

LATEST ON FALLWELL — “Falwell agreed to resign, then backtracked, Liberty University says,” by Maggie Severns, Michael Stratford and Brandon Ambrosino: “Jerry Falwell Jr. said he planned to resign Monday as president and chancellor of Liberty University only to backpedal on that decision several hours later after it had become public, according to a statement from the Christian university.

“Falwell ‘agreed to resign as its President and from its Board of Directors but following media reports about the resignation, withdrew it,’ the university said in a statement late Monday evening. The university’s board of trustees was scheduled to meet on Tuesday.

“The uncertainty over the fate of Falwell, one of President Donald Trump’s most prominent evangelical supporters, follows growing scrutiny of his private behavior, including allegations that he and his wife had engaged in an ongoing relationship with Giancarlo Granda, a former pool attendant at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach.” POLITICO

— MAGGIE SEVERNS and BRANDON AMBROSINO: “Falwell sought to cut financial ties to pool attendant before Trump’s campaign”

ZACH MONTELLARO: “Black and Latino voters wary of mail-in voting”: “Democrats’ push to promote mail-in voting this fall could be undermined by an important fact: Some of their key constituencies don’t trust it.

“Black and Latino voters consistently voice more discomfort and uncertainty about voting by mail, even as a majority of Democrats overall say they plan to cast absentee ballots this fall, according to polling and focus groups. Generating overwhelming margins and turnout among both groups is a key to victory for Joe Biden in November, and Democrats don’t want to lose any votes by suggesting that mail voting is the only proper way to cast a ballot in the general election.

“In a series of recent focus groups conducted in Philadelphia and Las Vegas by iVote — a Democratic group focused on voting rights and secretaries of state — and shared with POLITICO, Black and Latino voters said the experience of voting in person ‘has been ingrained and they feel secure their vote will be counted,’ according to the report summary.” POLITICO

TRUMP’S TUESDAY — The president attends first lady Melania Trump’s GOP convention remarks in the Rose Garden at 10:30 p.m.

PLAYBOOK READS

MICHAEL KRUSE in Cornelius, N.C.: “Trump’s Scare Tactics Aren’t Working on Women in the Suburbs”: “The suburbs, like this one, just up Interstate 77 from the official site of the start of this week’s Republican National Convention, make up the terrain on which the coming election almost certainly will be decided. The suburbs almost always are a political battlefield, or at least have been for the last generation or more.

“And if Trump can’t win or even loses a sufficient slice of his support in Cornelius, one of the whitest and most reliably Republican of the key suburbs in this critical swing state, he probably can’t win North Carolina, according to pollsters and strategists. And if he can’t win North Carolina, they say, he probably can’t win reelection. Hence the message he’s been delivering with increasing frequency and ferocity of late, appealing to the ‘Suburban Housewives of America,’ charging that Joe Biden wants to ‘destroy your neighborhood and your American Dream,’ and stressing that residents of American suburbia want ‘security’ and not ‘low-income housing’ forced ‘down their throats.’ …

“It was a prominent and recurring theme on the opening night of the mostly virtual RNC. ‘They want,’ said Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the couple from St. Louis who pointed guns at Black Lives Matter protesters marching past their house earlier this summer, referring to Democrats and echoing language used repeatedly by Trump himself, ‘to abolish the suburbs.’ The response I got from actual suburban women here on Monday, though, was a mixture of eye-rolls, laughter and confusion. ‘It’s not something I’m afraid of,’ said Connie Searle, 61, retired from a human resources job at a bank.” POLITICO

THE LATEST FROM MINSK — “Day After Mass Protests, Belarus Arrests Opposition Activists,” by NYT’s Ivan Nechepurenko and Andrew Higgins: “Security forces in Belarus on Monday arrested two of the last high-profile opposition figures not already in jail for protesting against the country’s authoritarian president, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko. The arrests came as a senior United States diplomat met with the embattled president’s most prominent opponent, who fled the country under duress earlier this month.

“In the first publicly acknowledged high-level contact between the U.S. government and the Belarusian opposition, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen E. Biegun met in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, with Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Mr. Lukashenko’s main rival in the disputed presidential election on Aug. 9 that triggered mass protests.”

VALLEY TALK — “General Atlantic, Sequoia Capital Are Key Drivers in Oracle Bid for TikTok,” by WSJ’s Rolfe Winkler, Miriam Gottfried and Cara Lombardo: “General Atlantic and Sequoia Capital, two major investors in TikTok’s Chinese parent company, are maneuvering to be part of a deal to acquire the U.S. operations of the popular video-sharing app as it seeks to avoid a ban by the Trump administration, according to people familiar with the discussions.

“The investment firms, which own large stakes in Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd., are key drivers behind a possible bid for TikTok by a group including Oracle Corp., the people said. The Oracle group emerged recently as a possible alternative to Microsoft Corp., which said early this month that it was in talks to buy TikTok’s operations in the U.S. and three other countries.

“Microsoft had said it might invite some U.S. investors to join its bid. But more recently Sequoia and General Atlantic grew concerned that they wouldn’t have a place in a Microsoft deal and looked for another potential tech partner that could give them a piece of the action, some of the people said. They are now pushing the potential Oracle bid, which quickly won President Trump’s public support, although some of the people said the Microsoft talks are fluid and outside investors could still be included as minority investors in Microsoft’s bid.”

MEDIAWATCH … FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Khushbu Shah is the new editor-in-chief of The Fuller Project, the nonprofit newsroom that focuses on reporting on women. She has won two Murrow Awards, most recently was managing editor of Georgia Public Broadcast and is a CNN alum.

PLAYBOOKERS

Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at [email protected].

NEW — Chasten Buttigieg, Carol Giacomo and Jorge Vasquez Jr. are joining the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics as fall 2020 fellows, along with returning fellows Brittany Packnett Cunningham, Michael Nutter and Alice Stewart.

TRANSITION — Former RNC Chair Michael Steele is now a senior adviser at the Lincoln Project.

ENGAGED — Derek Lyons, assistant to the president and staff secretary, and Liz Horning, special assistant to the president and policy adviser, got engaged Friday at the White House. They met in Miami in 2015. Pic Another pic

WEEKEND WEDDING — Ryan Collins, director of government affairs at the Center for American Progress and an Ed Perlmutter alum, and Kimé McClintock, a fourth-year medical student at George Washington University and a Planned Parenthood Action Fund Alaska alum, got married Saturday in an intimate family ceremony in Beaver Creek, Colo. They were introduced by a mutual friend on the Hill. Pic

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Monica Alba, NBC News political reporter. A fun fact about her: “I come from a family of soccer fanatics and have been to the last five World Cups (six when you count the Women’s World Cup in Paris last year, which actually doubled as my bachelorette party). Unclear if we’ll make it to Qatar in 2022, but I can say with certainty we’ll be at the tournament in 2026 when it’s hosted by the U.S., Mexico and Canada. (I’m really missing sports, can you tell?)” Playbook Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: Michael Cohen is 54 … Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) is 6-0 … Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) is 48 … Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) is 56 … Elsa Walsh … Tom Squitieri is 67 … Sarah Peck of DNC War Room strategic comms … Zach Cikanek, managing director at PLUS Communications, is 38 (h/t wife Jolyn) … Leigh Claffey, director of comms at Growth Energy and managing partner at Claffey Communications (h/t sister Lauren) … Sara Sendek, director of public affairs at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (h/t Scott McConnell) … Axios’ Neal Rothschild … Mike Burns, deputy comms director for House Appropriations … Jeff Choudhry … Ryan Dalton, senior director of state affairs and government marketing at BGR Group (h/t wife Olivia Alair Dalton) … Chris Hooton, chief economist at the Internet Association … POLITICO’s Gary Fineout and Steph Albrecht … Protocol’s Amanda Farnan … State Department’s Ashley Inman (h/t boyfriend David Beavers) … former Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is 78 … Dave Hoppe is 69 … PwC’s Michael O’Brien … Daniel Barash of SKDKnickerbocker (h/t Samantha Greene) … Rachel Rosen …

… Ted Metzger, EP of CNN’s “At This Hour with Kate Bolduan” … Mary Monica Allen, adviser for Middle East policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, is 26 … Jen Lifhits, deputy policy director for the House GOP Conference … Jamie Jackson, deputy general counsel for the House Armed Services Committee … Megan Clasen, senior paid media adviser for the Biden campaign … Rob Groulx … Lennon Duggan … Debbie Matz … Dan Stein … Michael Wascom … Bobby Gifford III is 5 (h/t dad Robert) … former Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) is 33 … former Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) is 61 … former Rep. John Faso (R-N.Y.) is 68 … former Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.) is 75 … Ronn Torossian is 46 … Brian Wise … Jack Coogan is 25 … Terry O’Neill … Howard Kass is 52 … W2O Group’s Antoinette Forbes … Caroline Melo … Anna Mulrine Grobe … Sam Michelman … Rachel Hanfling … POLITICO Europe’s Christian Oliver … Jonathan Halling … John Dickas is 42 … Allison Davis O’Keefe … Beth Burke … Margo Hennigan … Robin Johnson … Theresa Pagliocca … Brian Sweeney … Kim Warkentin (h/t Teresa Vilmain) … Eric Stern

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