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Trump's RNC finale had a clear message: Take it or leave it

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: Donald Trump
Donald Trump Jr., President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump stand on the South Lawn of the White House on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention, on Aug. 27, 2020.Evan Vucci / AP

WASHINGTON — For three and a half nights, speaker after speaker at the Republican convention worked to rehabilitate President Donald Trump’s image — that he’s not racist, that he’s a generous dad/grandfather/employer, and that he’s a uniter.

But over the course of his 70-minute acceptance speech last night, Trump made it clear: Take it or leave it, he is who he is. (Or as Michelle Obama might put it, it is what it is.)

There was no effort to soften his language. “Before the China Virus came in…”

No effort to reach across the aisle. “How can the Democrat Party ask to lead our country when it spends so much time tearing down our country?”

No effort to the stop the bald-faced untruths. “We will always, and very strongly, protect patients with pre-existing conditions, and that is a pledge from the entire Republican Party.” (In fact, his White House has backed a lawsuit before the Supreme Court to tear down those protections.)

No effort to acknowledge mistakes. “The United States has among the lowest case fatality rates of any major country in the world.”In fact, the U.S. has had more coronavirus fatalities – 180,000-plus – than any other country.)

And there was no effort to stop smashing norms or taunting his foes. “The fact is, I am here. What's the name of that building?”Trump said as he pointed at the White House. “But I'll say it differently, the fact is, we are here and they are not.”

He is who is he is.

That message could be enough to inspire his base to catapult him into a second term in our divided country — as others work to smooth his rough edges.

Or that resistance to reflect, change and moderate could be his undoing.

Tweet of the Day

A tale of two (very different) conventions

The back-to-back Democratic and Republican conventions over the last two weeks couldn’t have been more different.

Democrats had no live audiences for their speeches. Republicans did, especially for Trump’s address last night.

Democrats featured plenty of masks and lots of social distancing. Republicans didn’t.

Democrats invoked George Floyd. Republicans invoked the protests and the “thin blue line.”

Democrats featured past presidents and presidential nominees. Republicans didn’t.

Democrats made the coronavirus — the toll it’s taken, as well as how to combat it — a major theme. Republicans tried to put it in the past tense.

And even in how the conventions concluded, Democrats launched fireworks in Delaware in front of spectators in their cars. Republicans put on a show from the Washington Monument.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

5,889,617: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 47,328 more than yesterday morning.)

181,592: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 908 more than yesterday morning.)

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

70 minutes: The length of Trump’s convention acceptance speech last night, which clocked in at the second longest in modern history. (The longest was Trump’s in 2016.)

At least six: The deaths from Hurricane Laura, which has also left hundreds of thousands without power.

Ad Watch from Ben Kamisar

Today’s Ad Watch is about counter-programming.

With President Trump taking center-stage on Thursday night, we wanted to take a quick peek at a few examples of the message with which Democrats wanted to counter Trump’s big speech.

The Biden campaign hit the airwaves during the convention with a two-minute spot contrasting the two candidates on issues like the coronavirus and the economy (the ad apparently ran on Fox during one Trump official’s speech).

And VoteVets released a digital video featuring a Gold Star father who blasted Trump for his decision to send SEALS into Yemen for a raid in which his son was killed.

The contrasting messages between the two parties have been highlighted over the past two weeks. And we’ll see over the next few days if one broke through.

Pelosi speaks

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made her fair share of news during a press conference on Thursday morning. First, she anticipated she’d only have short conversations with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows until the White House agreed to raise their price tag for coronavirus relief.

She also said that Joe Biden shouldn’t debate President Trump (which Joe Biden pushed aside and said several times on Thursday that he would debate the president).

The Lid: Finding religion

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at why both parties are keen to capture the Catholic vote.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

NBC’s Craig Melvin interviewed Kamala Harris yesterday. Here are the highlights.

Joe Biden says that Trump is “rooting for more violence, not less.”

If you missed the last night of the RNC, our live blog has you covered here.

Officials are investigating racist robocalls aimed at discouraging voters from voting by mail.

Biden and Harris are finally getting ready to hit the trail.

The CDC is walking back its previous revisions to coronavirus testing.

DHS is considering contact tracing for all passengers arriving to the U.S. by air.

Unemployed Americans say they won’t forget that Congress let aid lapse.

Japan’s prime minister is stepping down.