AILSA CHANG, HOST:
It is the final night of the Republican National Convention, and President Trump is expected to deliver a blistering critique of his Democratic opponent Joe Biden. Trump is also set to talk today about restoring law and order in the country. Here he is earlier today commenting on Kenosha, Wis.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We will put out the fire. We will put out the flame. We will put out the vandalism because the vandalism and the looting is ridiculous.
CHANG: With me now to talk about what to expect tonight are NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson and NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe.
Hey to both of you.
AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Hello.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi there.
CHANG: All right, Ayesha, I want to start with you. What do you think we'll be hearing from the president tonight exactly?
RASCOE: This is really a moment with the unrest in Kenosha, Wis., where the president will present himself as a defender of America, defender of the suburbs, really. And that's what we've heard throughout the week. It's a message that's really geared towards a mostly white audience, a message about fear and really fear of the cities.
I was in Baltimore last night for Vice President Pence's speech, and he got huge applause lines when he talked about there will be law and order. And tonight, I expect we'll hear more of that from President Trump. He'll blame Democratic mayors and governors for the unrest and say if Joe Biden wins, it will get worse.
Joe Biden, of course, is speaking out against this. In television interviews today, you know, he made the point that Trump is in charge right now with all of this is happening. And he said - and Biden said that Trump is rooting for violence. I do expect, though, that we'll hear Trump condemn violence on all sides. That has been the line that the White House has taken so far.
CHANG: Well, how much do you think President Trump will be speaking directly about Jacob Blake? This is the Black man who was shot by police in Kenosha.
RASCOE: It's not clear that he will mention him directly or even the alleged white vigilante who shot and killed two protesters. You know, talking about the victims was a part of the strategy that we saw from Kamala Harris, you know, Joe Biden's vice presidential running mate. She gave a - sort of a prebuttal speech. Here's a little bit from her.
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KAMALA HARRIS: Jacob Blake, shot seven times in the back in broad daylight in front of his three young sons - seven times in the back in broad daylight in front of his three young sons. As Vice President Biden put it, the shots fired at Mr. Blake pierced the soul of our nation.
RASCOE: So Harris is definitely focusing on Blake. She also criticized Trump for his coronavirus response, which she said made things worse than they had to be. And she argued that on the coronavirus, the biggest test of Trump's presidency, she argued that he failed.
CHANG: Well, Mara, let's turn to you now. I mean, how much is this law and order message playing with voters so far, you think?
LIASSON: Well, there's no doubt the Trump campaign feels the tide is turning for them on this issue, that people are becoming more concerned about rioting than they are about racial justice. There was a new poll out today from Marquette University in Wisconsin that shows white support for the Black Lives Matter movement has evaporated since June. It was plus 25 positive back then. Now it's evenly split.
And the fact that this unrest is happening in Wisconsin, one of the three blue wall states that got Trump to the White House last time, he only needs to hang on to one of them to win this time as long as he keeps all his other states. And Wisconsin is considered probably the easiest one for him to keep because there are an awful lot of Trump-like voters there. Sixty percent of the Wisconsin electorate is white, non-college. So he has a pool to fish in there, and this is the Trump campaign strategy, to use the law and order message to find people who look like Trump voters but didn't vote in 2016 and get them to come out this year.
CHANG: OK. So the campaign is looking to expand its support among white nonvoters. But, you know, at the same time, Mara, what we've been seeing at this convention, we've been seeing the Republicans feature a lot of Black speakers, other people of color as speakers throughout this week. What do you think is the message that they're trying to convey here?
LIASSON: Well, one of the messages they're trying to convey is that Trump is not a racist. They want to reassure, especially white suburban women, that regardless of what you hear from Trump, he is not racially insensitive. Nikki Haley was the most effective messenger on this. She said, it's fashionable for Democrats to call America a racist country. I don't think that's true, but people don't like to be called racist. They didn't like it when Hillary called Trump's supporters deplorable in 2016. That's why Trump made such a big deal over that comment. And all this week, the Republicans have worked really hard at the convention to address all of Trump's deficits, whether it's about COVID or the economy or character, and certainly about race. And that's why - what those Black speakers were there for.
CHANG: OK. So a big moment tonight for the president. Real quick, I want to go to each of you with just one quick parting thought ahead of the speech. Ayesha, let's start with you.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Tonight is the last big scripted moment and crafted message for Trump. And so after this, he's going to be going back to doing rallies and tweets. And I will be interested to see if he will stick to his message.
CHANG: And, Mara, real quick.
LIASSON: Well, after this, the next big thing is the debates. I can't think of a campaign where debates will be more important. It's going to be the best opportunity the Trump campaign has to prove their point that Biden has lost a step or two, or as Trump says - likes to say, Biden is shot. The problem is, at his convention, he gave a pretty presidential address (unintelligible)...
CHANG: All right.
LIASSON: ...From the Oval Office. So now they're switching to say Biden is a really good debater.
CHANG: That is NPR's Mara Liasson and Ayesha Rascoe.
Thanks to both of you.
RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.