CLEVELAND – The bunting is out, the balloons are ready and this city is awash in Republican activists, liberal protesters and reporters from the across the globe as the Republican National Convention kicks off Monday.
The quadrennial confab where Donald Trump is expected to be officially nominated for president will be four days of speeches, meetings and parties that officially gavels in at 1 p.m.
For Trump, the convention comes at a crucial time. He is trying to put weeks of distracting feuds and staff turnover behind him and demonstrate to the country that he is the best-qualified candidate for the White House. On Monday morning, he touted the facilities where the convention will be held.
“You know we spent so much time building the center and it got built properly,” he said in an interview on Fox News Channel. “It’s beautiful. It’s really one of the most beautiful I’ve seen of its kind and we’re very proud of it.”
For the city of Cleveland, the convention will be a test of its ability to maintain order and safety at a time when tension and deadly violence has erupted between police and African Americans across the country in recent weeks.
Nearly 5,000 delegates and alternates are gathering in Cleveland, which hit by stormy weather Monday morning. The convention will also host about 15,000 credentialed media, organizers said.
Each day of the convention will feature a unique theme. Monday’s theme is “Make America Safe Again,” a twist on Trump’s signature “Make America Great Again” motto. The day’s speeches are expected to underscore national security, immigration and foreign policy themes.
Monday’s speakers are an eclectic mix of television stars, military veterans, members of Congress and Trump’s wife Melania. On Fox, Trump said his wife would talk about her immigrant experience and “love of country.”
Two of Monday’s speakers are U.S. senators and Iraq war veterans: Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Joni Ernst of Iowa. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who served in the top job in New York City during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, will also speak.
Soap opera actor Antonio Sabato Jr., actor Scott Baio and “Duck Dynasty” star Willie Robertson are also scheduled to speak. Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn ,who Trump considered to be his vice presidential running mate, will deliver an address as well.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a strident Trump critic as a candidate for president, is on the schedule of speakers. His fellow Texan and House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul is also on the slate.
Later in the week, Trump and his running mate Mike Pence will address the convention. In their first joint television interview, which aired Sunday night, Trump and the Indiana governor sought to project a unified front. But the mogul often overshadowed his running mate and differences between the two were magnified.