Not on the schedule for the next four nights are major Republican figures like former President George W. Bush or Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee. Instead, the roster of speakers includes Nikki R. Haley, the former ambassador to the United Nations; Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House minority leader; and Senators Tim Scott of South Carolina and Joni Ernst of Iowa. Melania Trump, the first lady, will speak from the White House Rose Garden, and Vice President Mike Pence from Fort McHenry in Baltimore.
Also slated to address the convention are culture war figures like the Missouri couple charged for brandishing guns at peaceful Black Lives Matters protesters passing their home and the former Kentucky high school student whose face-to-face standoff with a Native American protester in 2019 went viral online. In addition, the convention will spotlight the parents of Kayla Mueller, who was killed by the Islamic State in 2015, and Alice Johnson, whose life prison term on drug charges was commuted by Mr. Trump in 2018.
“You’re going to see and hear from many Americans whose lives have been monumentally impacted by this administration’s policies,” Kellyanne Conway, the president’s counselor, told reporters on Friday. “We definitely want to improve on the dour and sour mood of the D.N.C. The two most popular words at the Democratic convention were not ‘Joe Biden.’ They were ‘Donald Trump.’”
What viewers will not see is Ms. Conway’s colleague from the 2016 campaign, Mr. Bannon, who became a virtual cult figure among some after helping Mr. Trump pull one of the biggest upset victories in modern American history. Mr. Bannon’s arrest last week on fraud charges could hardly have come at a less propitious moment for a president down in some polls by double digits and looking to regain traction. The schadenfreude seemed only more pronounced by the fact that the charges revolve around an alleged scheme to profit off the donations of Trump supporters fooled into thinking they were helping to build his signature border wall, which Mr. Trump had originally promised Mexico would pay for.
Scandal on the eve of a convention is not necessarily a political killer by itself. President Bill Clinton had to fire his chief strategist, Dick Morris, after revelations about the aide’s antics with a toe-sucking prostitute, a story that broke the morning of the president’s acceptance speech at the 1996 convention and did no lasting damage in the end.
The difference is that in Mr. Trump’s case the accumulation of such episodes can weigh on a presidency. Mr. Bannon joins a who’s who of onetime Trump team members to see the inside of a prison cell or criminal courtroom, including Michael T. Flynn, Roger J. Stone Jr., Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos and Michael Cohen.
“For someone who campaigned on a promise to ‘drain the swamp,’ Trump has seen a large number of close advisers charged with crimes,” said Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney in Michigan. “The long list of associates charged with crimes speaks volumes about Trump’s judgment and lack of rigor in vetting.”