8 things about the US Republican National Convention in Cleveland

Workers hanging a campaign sign inside the Quicken Loans Arena, the site of the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio on July 17.
Workers hanging a campaign sign inside the Quicken Loans Arena, the site of the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio on July 17.PHOTO: EPA

In the media spotlight this week is the US Republican convention in Cleveland, Ohio, where Mr Donald Trump will be officially nominated as the party's candidate for the presidential election on Nov 8.

US political conventions, held every four years, are designed to bring a party together, formally select its presidential nominee, and catapult both the candidate and the party towards the presidential election.

This year's Republican convention could turn out to be the most unorthodox and controversial one in recent US political history.

Here are eight things about the four-day convention, which starts on Monday (July 18):

1. Mr Trump's goal: To get voters to see him in a more positive light

Mr Trump hopes to get more American voters to take a fresh look at him and see him in a more favourable light. His victory over 16 other Republican candidates in a brutal battle has been marked by insults and inflammatory rhetoric that left many in the party divided.

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, who has been a private counsellor to Mr Trump, says the convention would help the latter pivot to the general election.

"He's never run for anything before. I think it's just taken longer to pivot, and I think he's pivoting," he told NBC.

But Mr Trump faces a herculean task to win over party critics. His hostile rhetoric and populist message has outraged conservatives and prompted a battle for the soul of the Republican Party.

2. Theme of convention: "Make America Great Again"

This is similar to Mr Trump's campaign pledge. The slogan was used by former president Ronald Regan, whom both Mr Trump and his father supported. The convention will focus on the core issues of national security, immigration, trade and jobs.

3. Few party luminaries, eclectic mix of speakers

Unusually, the convention features no former presidents, few party luminaries and only a few elected officials. Mr George W. Bush, Mr John McCain and Mr Mitt Romney - the last three Republican presidential nominees - are staying well away.

Mr Trump will depend on his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, and his family - wife Melania, daughters Ivanka and Tiffany, and son Donald Trump Jr. - to make his case.

The other speakers are an eclectic mix that include business leaders, astronaut Eileen Collins, the first woman to command a space shuttle mission, golfer Natalie Gulbis and Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White. And in a move to counter accusations that Mr Trump is racist, the speaker list also includes black pastor Darrell Scott.

4. Assault on Democrats and Mrs Hillary Clinton

The first day of the convention will reportedly include an attack on the Democrats, especially Mr Trump's rival Hillary Clinton. It will focus on the Sept 11, 2012 attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, by Islamic militants which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other US serviceman. Mrs Clinton, then the US Secretary of State, is currently testifying before a congressional panel investigating the attack. Mrs Clinton had taken responsibility for State Department's rejection of a request for additional security at the embassy in the run-up to the attack.

Reports also say there is a presentation on the sexual affairs of Mr Bill Clinton when he was US president.

5. Anti-Trump Republicans vow to embarrass him

Republicans who failed to change party rules and stop Mr Trump from winning the party's presidential nomination are threatening to cause chaos on the floor of the convention. Bruised by the way party leaders handled debate on a series of proposed rules changes, leaders of anti-Trump groups are vowing to do what Mr Trump hates most: Find a way to embarrass him.

"If they thought they were going to have the nice, unified kumbaya show, they just completely guaranteed they're not going to have it," says Mr Kendal Unruh, a delegate from Colorado who leads an anti-Trump group.

6. Americans to get a closer look at Mike Pence

Republican faithful will get their first look at Mr Pence, who was announced as Mr Trump's vice-presidential running mate on Saturday (July 18) after a messy selection process.

Hoping to win over more traditional Republicans, Mr Trump picked the social conservative over two other finalists: former House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

But the disorganised nature of the running mate rollout - in which Mr Trump failed to fully project the power of the partnership - had some Republicans worried that they could see more of the same in Cleveland.

7. Battalions of police mobilised

Police are bracing for the worst as opponents and supporters of Mr Trump gather in the city. Roads are lined with concrete barriers and helicopters patrol overhead. The Cleveland police, bolstered with federal funds for security, bought 300 bikes and trained officers on how to do their jobs on two wheels. Barricades have also been erected downtown to thwart any potential terror attack. Local hospitals have opened up extra bed space in case of mass casualties.

Rarely has a national convention incited so much jitters. It is taking place in the middle of an extraordinarily violent summer that has seen police shootings, huge protest marches, the Dallas police ambush, the killings of police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as well as attacks in Orlando, Florida, and Nice, France.

8. First Republican convention in Cleveland since 1936.

The city in Ohio is all geared up to host its first Republican convention in about 80 years . Greeters are everywhere, many of them volunteers, wearing white shirts and red caps. Travellers getting off their planes will immediately encounter people handing out maps and city guides."We the People Welcome You to Cleveland", declare the lamppost banners hung all over the city.

SOURCE: AFP, NEW YORK TIMES, TELEGRAPH, WASHINGTON POST