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Morning Rundown: Mystery surrounds company at center of Graceland battle, Utah grief author breaks silence in husband's fatal poisoning, and the Trump campaign takes hands-on approach to GOP platform

Real world chaos undercuts Trump's convention message

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Nightly Protests Continue In Portland
Federal officers line up prior to a crowd dispersal of about 300 protesters in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention building in Portland, Ore., on Aug. 26, 2020.Nathan Howard / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — For most of this year, the events of 2020 have overshadowed the actual presidential campaign.

And it’s happening again — as the Republican convention concludes and with 68 days until Election Day.

A powerful hurricane has slammed into the Louisiana-Texas Gulf Coast.

The shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wis., has resulted in unrest, further violence and the arrest of a 17-year-old charged with murder during the protests.

Also because of the Blake shooting, professional athletes — from the NBA and WNBA, to Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and tennis star Naomi Osaka — walked off their respective courts and playing fields.

And on top of it all, the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus has now surpassed 180,000 — all in six months.

Two things can be true at the same time. One, this presidential election is so consequential, as Democrats and Republicans continue to remind us.

And two, the actual campaigns — whether it’s the conventions or the limited campaign activity — seem so small compared with everything else.

Tweet of the day

The reality: This is Trump’s America, not Biden’s

Law and order was a central message of Vice President Mike Pence’s convention speech last night.

“The violence must stop, whether in Minneapolis, Portland, or Kenosha, too many heroes have died defending our freedom to see American strike each other down. We will have law and order on the streets of this country for every American of every race and creed and color,” Pence said, with no mention of George Floyd’s or Jacob Blake’s names.

Pence continued, “Joe Biden would double down on the very policies that are leading to violence in America's cities, the hard truth is, you won't be safe in Joe Biden's America. Under President Trump, we will always stand with those who stand on the thin blue line, and we're not going to defund the police not now, not ever.”

But the reality is that this kind of violence — police shooting Black men, white 17 year-olds taking up arms — is happening in Donald Trump’s America right now.

So is the fact that about 1,000 Americans a day are dying from the coronavirus, as NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald notes.

Given all of these events, Trump and Pence are trying to run as challengers, not as incumbents. (“We will make American great again — again,” Pence said last night.)

But they’re the incumbents.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

5,842,528: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 44,561 more than yesterday morning.)

180,684: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,219 more than yesterday morning.)

74.05 million: The number of coronavirus tests administered in the U.S., according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

150 mph: The peak winds of Hurricane Laura when it made landfall at about 1am ET last night near Cameron, Louisiana.

164: The number of years since a hurricane this strong hit Louisiana.

Three: The number of NBA playoff games postponed yesterday as teams, led by the Milwaukee Bucks, refused to play in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Athletes from the WNBA, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer followed suit.

17: The age of a man who has been charged with first-degree homicide in connection with the deaths of two people protesting in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Tuesday night.

Nearly two dozen: The number of freshman House Democrats that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is poised to endorse for reelection, a major break for the typically GOP-focused organization.

More than 100: The number of former staffers for John McCain who announced today that they’re backing Joe Biden over Trump.

More than 30: The number of staffers from Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign who also say they’re endorsing Biden.

2020 Vision: Final day of the GOP convention

The major speakers on the last day of the Republican convention include:

  • President Donald Trump
  • Ivanka Trump
  • Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
  • HUD Secretary Ben Carson

Ad Watch from Ben Kamisar

Today’s Ad Watch heads to Texas’s 7th District, where Republican Wesley Hunt is trying to win back the Houston-area seat Democrats flipped in 2018.

Republican Army veteran Wesley Hunt is the Republicans’ candidate there, and he’s been running a series of interesting bio spots that bluntly confront his family’s path to America.

“When my great, great grandfather came to America, he worked the land 16 hours a day. Not by choice, he was bound by chains,” Hunt says, holding a set of chains.

“But through the decades, my family found opportunity, success and security, and we achieved the American dream. From slavery to West Point in just five generations, that’s our story.”

Hunt’s opponent, incumbent Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, has largely focused her ad messaging in recent months on the coronavirus, highlighting things like her push in Congress to help businesses during the pandemic.

So far, Fletcher has significantly outspent Hunt on the airwaves as the freshman Democrat looks to hold the line. But these are the places that Republicans are looking to win back to make a dent in House Democrats’ majority.

Skinny relief

NBC’s Capitol Hill team reports that a group of Senate Republicans are working on a skinny coronavirus relief proposal — around $500 billion — which could be released to members sometime this week.

But it’s highly unlikely that this legislation is going anywhere, and it’s unlikely that proposing a new bill will do anything to appease Democrats or restart negotiations. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she will not re-engage with Republicans and the administration until they raise their budget for relief to at least $2 trillion (up from the $1 trillion their last bill budgeted for).

This new round of legislation won’t include a second round of stimulus checks, which is something the president has said he’d want to sign before the November election, but it’s the third Republican-led attempt at legislation in the past month.

On July 27, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a $1 trillion bill which half of his caucus disapproved of. And on Aug. 18, McConnell’s team floated a less than $1 trillion bill – that bill was never introduced.

The Lid: Not just about the base

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at the RNC’s push for Black voters, particularly men.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Here’s NBC’s fact-check of Night Three of the RNC.

A woman who became a citizen during Tuesday night’s naturalization ceremony did not know she was going to be part of the GOP convention.

Federal officials say they’ve seen no evidence of foreign governments trying to tamper with mail-in ballots.

Disinformation accounts are targeting Black voters.

The change in CDC guidelines for coronavirus testing happened while De. Anthony Fauci was in surgery, he says. He has some concerns.

Top Democtrats want a probe into potential Hatch Act violations this week by the White House.