President Donald Trump warned Thursday that his election opponent Joe Biden wants to destroy "American greatness" in a speech accepting the Republican nomination for a second term against a backdrop of explosive racial tensions and the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
The former celebrity realestate developer declared himself all that stands between Americans and the disaster he claimed his "weak" Democratic rival would bring if he wins on November 3.
"This election will decide whether we save the American Dream," Trump said. "
"Joe Biden is not a savior of America's soul. He's the destroyer of America's jobs and given the chance, he'll be the destroyer of American greatness."
Despite Trump's warnings of chaos, his bid for reelection is already taking place amid levels of turmoil the country hasn't seen for decades, a fact rubbed in by a Black Lives Matter protest outside the White House -- with shouting and vuvezela trumpets audible inside the fences.
Trump spoke from the White House's South Lawn, which he had transformed into a flashy event center for the final night of the Republican convention.
Trampling over long-running presidential custom to separate the executive mansion from political campaigning, Trump had some 1,500 white chairs laid out in front of the stage bedecked with rows of US flags and two giant video screens.
His message of anarchy under Democratic rule was amplified by a string of warm-up speakers including his powerful daughter Ivanka.
And when Trump finally came to deliver the main speech, he did not hold back.
"If the left gains power, they will demolish the suburbs, confiscate your guns," he said, while branding Biden as a man with a history of "betrayals" and "blunders."
Biden responded on Twitter, asking: "When Donald Trump says tonight you won't be safe in Joe Biden's America, look around and ask yourself: How safe do you feel in Donald Trump's America?"
- Law and order? -
The hardline message comes as the country reels in shock at the videotaped shooting by a police officer of an African American man during an attempted arrest in front of his children -- and at the sometimes violent protests erupting afterward.
Days of demonstrations and rioting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, have transformed the small town into a national arena for America's painful tensions over racial justice, police violence, and gun rights. When a teenaged vigilante -- reportedly a Trump fan -- allegedly killed two people and seriously wounded a third at a protest Tuesday night, the perfect storm was complete.
Struggling in opinion polls after what almost two thirds of Americans say is his unsatisfactory handling of the Covid-19 crisis, Trump has latched on to what he calls the "law and order" strategy as a possible route to victory.
Democrats assert that police forces across the country are plagued by institutional racism. Trump is leading Republican pushback, banking on the idea that Americans will be angrier at scenes of rioting than at police abuses.
"If Biden is elected, along with the Democrats who are unwilling to speak out against this anarchy, then the crime wave will intensify and spread from cities and towns to suburbs and beyond," Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and current personal lawyer to Trump, said in his warm-up speech.
"When President Trump is re-elected the damage will stop," he said.
- Milking the violence? -
In addition to soaring racial tensions, the United States is still struggling to master the coronavirus outbreak or get schools and businesses back fully open.
But Trump emphasized what he said had been his administration's constant success in handling the health crisis and economic fallout.
At the South Lawn party, there was no effort to enforce social distancing and many people did not wear masks.
Although Trump can depend on a fiercely loyal right-wing base, his reelection will likely depend on support from a relatively small number of independent voters in the crucial swing states.
So Trump is especially keen to pull a rabbit out of the hat in the form of a pre-election breakthrough on Covid-19, especially a vaccine. And a few hours before the speech, the White House announced the large government purchase of 150 million rapid coronavirus tests from Abbott Laboratories to help schools and businesses to reopen safely.
Biden's team accuses Trump of being derelict on the coronavirus, which has killed more than 180,000 Americans so far. On the race front, Biden goes further.