The Republican Party has formally nominated US President Donald Trump for a second term in the White House.
The nomination was one of the first acts of a Republican convention that has been dramatically scaled down to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Mr Trump has sought to minimise the toll of the pandemic, but its impact was evident as proceedings began in Charlotte, North Carolina. Instead of the thousands of people who were expected to converge on this city for a week-long extravaganza, just 336 delegates participated in a roll call vote from a Charlotte Convention Centre ballroom.
Earlier, the convention renominated vice president Mike Pence, and he thanked the delegates in person.
Mr Pence said: “The choice in this election has never been clearer and the stakes have never been higher. We’re going to make American great again. Again.”
Party chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said as she began the proceedings: “We are obviously disappointed we could not hold this event in the same way we had originally planned.”
But she thanked the city for allowing the convention to move forward in its truncated form.
Many of the usual trappings are present – the signs designating each state and the gift bags. But chairs on the ballroom floor were arranged with lots of space between them and convention organisers told participants to wear masks, though adherence to the rule was uneven.
It is a sharp contrast to the approach of Democrats, who created a roll call via video montage from states across the country to avoid a large-scale gathering last week at their well-received virtual convention.
The Republican convention is a crucial moment for Mr Trump, who is trailing in national and battleground state polls and is under intense pressure to turn the race around. Aides hope the convention will give them a chance to recast the story of Mr Trump’s presidency and shift the campaign’s thrust from a referendum on him to a choice between his vision for America’s future and the one presented by Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Ms McDaniel worked to highlight that contrast, accusing Mr Biden of embracing a radical left agenda and pushing back on Democrats’ efforts to demonstrate Mr Biden’s empathy and kindness.
“The truth is there’s only one person who has empathised with everyday Americans and actually been fighting for them every single day over the past four years, and that’s President Donald J Trump,” she said, adding that the convention would aim to present “an aspirational, forward-looking vision” for the future.
For both sides, it is an unconventional convention year.
The parties’ election year gatherings are typically massive events, drawing thousands of delegates, party leaders, donors, journalists and political junkies for a week of speeches, parties and after-parties that inject hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economy and deliver a multi-day infomercial for the nominee.
But the coronavirus has changed all that, as much as Mr Trump has resisted. Just 336 delegates – six from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and US territories – have been invited to cast proxy votes on behalf of the more than 2,500 regular delegates. And stringent safety measures have been put in place guided by a 42-page health and safety plan developed by a hired doctor.
Attendees were asked to practise enhanced social distancing and get tested prior to travel, fill in a pre-travel health questionnaire and participate in a daily symptom tracker. They are also being tested onsite, have been asked to maintain a 6ft distance from other people and to use face coverings as a condition of participation – though many attendees were seen openly flouting those rules on Monday morning. The RNC has also committed to contacting every participant five, 14 and 21 days after the event to check on potential symptoms.
The event had been met with protests, and police have made several arrests.
After starting in Charlotte, most of the convention will take place in Washington, DC, at and around the White House, as well as by video. It will feature remarks from a long list of well-known supporters of Mr Trump, including members of the Trump family, conservative firebrands and everyday Americans who campaign officials say have been helped by Mr Trump’s policies.
First lady Melania Trump will speak on Tuesday from the Rose Garden, vice president Mike Pence will appear from Fort McHenry in Baltimore on Wednesday and Mr Trump will deliver his marquee acceptance speech on Thursday from the South Lawn before a crowd of supporters — blurring the lines between governing and campaigning yet again.