INTERNATIONAL NEWS - President Donald Trump will seek to revive his re-election hopes this week at the Republican Party's largely online convention, battered by the coronavirus pandemic, economic troubles, racial unrest and polls pointing to an uphill fight.
Trump and his top aides strived over the weekend to put an optimistic spin on the convention as he prepares to head Monday to North Carolina to formally launch the four-day event.
"I think we're going to see something that is going to be very uplifting and positive, that's what I'd like it to be," the president told Fox News.
He sought to draw a sharp contrast to the just-ended Democratic convention, which he has called the "darkest, angriest and gloomiest" in history.
Republicans, facing polls that give Democrat Joe Biden an eight to 10-point lead, were also hoping for a boost from a planned Trump announcement Sunday on an advance in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 175,000 lives across the country.
The coming convention appears to be a highly Trump-centric affair - with the president appearing, unusually, on each of the four days - and with some speakers seen as intentionally provocative.
The scheduled includes a Missouri couple who pointed guns at anti-racist protesters marching past their mansion in June - an image that quickly went viral.
And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to deliver a speech Tuesday in support of Trump during an official visit to Israel.
Such a directly political intervention by the nation's top diplomat while abroad would be highly unusual.
Moreover, the president plans to deliver his acceptance speech Thursday from the lawn of the White House, shrugging off criticism over the use of the presidential residence for campaign purposes.
Dealing with the virus
Charlotte, North Carolina is where the party originally planned to hold its convention before the pandemic intervened, forcing first a shift to Florida and then a quick reimagining of the event as mostly virtual.
A few hundred Republican supporters are slated to gather in Charlotte to hear Trump speak on Monday, but Republican chairwoman Ronna McDaniel insisted that the gathering was being handled safely.
"We tested everybody before they came to Charlotte. We have been testing people on-site," she told NBC.
Convention speakers includes former ambassador Nikki Haley and Donald Trump Jr. on Monday; First Lady Melania Trump and Pompeo on Tuesday; and Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday.
While Democrats heard from all living former Democratic presidents as well as former presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, former Republican president George W. Bush is not expected to appear. Bush has been a critic of Trump's.
Help from 'The Apprentice'
The event comes only four days after the Democrats - in a history-making all-virtual convention of their own - formally crowned former vice president Biden as the party's presidential candidate.
Trump, whose rise from New York real estate mogul to political prominence was boosted by his reality TV show "The Apprentice," has turned to two of the program's producers to help with convention planning, according to reports.
The Republicans' effort is expected to incorporate more live broadcasting - an approach holding both opportunity and risk - than the Democratic event.
Republicans are expanding also the nightly program from the two hours presented by Democrats to two and a half hours, with TV networks committed to broadcast the final hour.
Trump is expected to try to impart the best possible spin on his efforts to battle the coronavirus, but polls show most Americans trust Biden far more than him to deal with it.
The president faced further criticism over the weekend from someone uncomfortably close: his sister Maryanne Trump Barry, heard on secretly recorded tapes provided to the Washington Post describing him as cruel, a liar and a man of "no principles."
Jason Miller, Trump's senior campaign advisor, responded angrily on NBC, saying, "It's shameful that the Washington Post came and ran the story yesterday, literally the day after the funeral services for (the president's brother) Robert Trump."
Miller joined other Republican aides in dismissing the Democrats' convention, calling it a "massive grievance-fest" from a party with no "vision for the future."
Biden had wrapped up his party's convention with a vow to end what he called a "chapter of American darkness."
The candidates are scheduled to hold three debates, the first on September 29, before Americans cast their ballots on November 3.