Republicans opened Monday night’s prime-time convention with dark warnings about America’s future if President Donald Trump does not win a second term.
A school teacher warned that conservative values were under attack from labour unions. A small business owner charged that businesses across America were facing unwarranted pandemic shutdowns and riotous mobs.
Meanwhile House representative Matt Gaetz likened the prospect of Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s election to a horror movie.
“They’ll disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home, and invite MS-13 to live next door,” Mr Gaetz said.
Mr Trump, who was not scheduled to deliver his keynote convention address until later in the week, made multiple public appearances throughout the first day of the four-day convention.
The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election
And while the evening programming was carefully scripted, Mr Trump was not.
“The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election,” the president told hundreds of Republican delegates gathered in North Carolina. The GOP convention marks a crucial moment for Mr Trump, a first-term Republican president tasked with reshaping a campaign he is losing by all accounts, at least for now.
The evening program highlighted the tension within Mr Trump’s Republican Party.
His harsh attacks against Democrats who are trying to expand mail voting and demonstrators protesting deaths in police custody, for example, often delight his die-hard loyalists. Yet the party pointed to a somewhat more diverse convention lineup with a more inclusive message designed to expand Mr Trump’s political coalition beyond his white, working-class base.
Two of the three final speakers on the prime-time program were people of colour: former US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate.
“I was a brown girl in a black and white world,” Ms Haley said, noting that she faced discrimination but rejecting the idea that “America is a racist country.”
She also gave a nod to the Black Lives Matter movement, saying “of course we know that every single black life is valuable.”
Meanwhile one of several African Americans on the schedule, former football star Herschel Walker, defended the president against those who call him a racist.
“It hurts my soul to hear the terrible names that people call Donald,” Mr Walker said in prepared remarks.
“The worst one is ‘racist.’ I take it as a personal insult that people would think I would have a 37-year friendship with a racist.”
However, earlier in the night, the program featured Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St Louis couple arrested after pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters marching past their home.
“Democrats no longer view the government’s job as protecting honest citizens from criminals, but rather protecting criminals from honest citizens,” the McCloskeys said.
They added: “Make no mistake: No matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America.”
Some of the planned remarks for the evening program were prerecorded, while others were to be delivered live from a Washington auditorium.
The fact that the Republicans gathered at all stood in contrast to the Democrats, who held an all-virtual convention last week.
Mr Trump said he had made the trip to North Carolina to contrast himself with his Democratic rival, who never travelled to Wisconsin, the state where the Democratic convention was originally supposed to be held.
The president has sought to minimise the toll of the coronavirus pandemic and he barely addressed it on Monday, but its impact was plainly evident at the Charlotte Convention Centre, where just 336 delegates gathered instead of the thousands once expected to converge for the week-long extravaganza.