They were from Ghana, Bolivia, Lebanon, India and Sudan, and all appeared to be willing political props for Donald Trump, who presided over their naturalization ceremony at the White House on the second night of the Republican National Convention.
This bit of unusual political theatre seemed designed to woo people of colour and perhaps was an attempt at a slight rehabilitation of the reputation of the U.S. president, who has faced accusations of racism and xenophobia.
But Tuesday also saw efforts placed on boosting Trump’s image among female voters, another demographic that could be a political vulnerability for Trump in the November election.
The headliner for Tuesday night was his wife, Melania Trump. But there were also speeches by current and former female politicians, including Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi and Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez.
The night culminated in a short video highlighting the significant roles women have played in the president’s administration.
WATCH | Melania Trump addresses the convention from the White House Rose Garden:
Trump support among white women eroding
Trump has come under fire for making racially insensitive and, at times, incendiary remarks. He is continually dogged by a quip that many Mexicans who cross the border into the U.S. are “rapists.” His travel ban from seven predominantly Muslim countries in 2017 was deemed Islamophobic by many. And he was roundly condemned when he tweeted last year that a group of U.S. congresswomen should return to “crime-infested places from which they came.”
Meanwhile, he has also faced allegations of sexual misconduct and assault from a series of women — allegations Trump denies. Yet, his Democratic presidential opponent, former vice-president Joe Biden, leads him by a wide margin in support from minorities and women.
Even Trump’s support among white women voters, 52 per cent of whom voted for him in the 2016 election, is eroding.
So on Tuesday night, speaking spots during the evening were given to individuals from both groups. The second night of the convention led off with a prayer from Hispanic pastor Norma Urrabazo, who also made reference to Jacob Blake, the Black man shot in the back by police in Wisconsin Sunday.
That prayer was followed by a speech from Myron Lizer, the vice-president of the Navajo Nation, who credited the president for his policies regarding Native Americans.
The night also featured Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, whose speech had Republicans buzzing on social media that the young 34-year-old politician is a rising star in the party.
His remarks that drew the most attention were those directed at Biden, specifically, his past comments about the Black community.
During the 2012 presidential campaign, while speaking to a crowd with many Black people in attendance, Biden suggested the pro-Wall Street policies of Republican candidate Mitt Romney would “put you all back in chains.”
More recently, during a radio interview in May, Biden proclaimed that “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t Black.”
‘We are not all the same, sir’
“Mr. vice-president, look at me,” Cameron said Tuesday night. “I am Black. We are not all the same, sir. I am not in chains. My mind is my own, and you can’t tell me how to vote because of the colour of my skin.”
His comments were also a knock at the Democrats, in general, and what Republicans say is a party obsessed with so-called identity politics.
“His statement that resonated with the Republican Party contradicts the narrative that the Democrats have put forward,” said Adi Sathi, a Michigan-based Republican strategist.
And that point was subtly reinforced with the nationalization ceremony, where Trump provided information about each new citizen.
“All the folks that had this amazing experience with the president were from countries that would be considered countries of minority or people of colour,” said Sathi.
“They all were highlighted not only for that, but also for their accomplishments, for their contributions that they’ve made already to America.”
Trump praises women’s ‘level of genius’
That message eschewing identity politics was also emphasized in the video about women in the Trump administration.
“Women have played a very very big role” in the administration, Trump says on the video. “The level of genius is unbelievable, frankly.”
In the video, the narrator points out that when Trump ran for president, “he rested all of his hopes for winning on one woman.”
That woman, Kellyanne Conway, was the first woman in U.S. history to manage a winning presidential campaign, according to the video.
“This president has been a champion for women, mostly because he speaks to them as if they can handle and tackle all issues,” Conway, who recently resigned as White House adviser to Trump to focus on her family, says in the video.
The video also targets moms, claiming that Sarah Sanders was the first press secretary who was a mother and that Stephanie Grisham was the first to be a single mom while holding that job.
“Only the president would say let’s take that stay-at-home mom and have her run the party,” says Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee. “What a smart guy.”
But Republican strategist Evan Siegfried, who is also a vocal critic of Trump, cast doubt on whether this approach would be effective with voters.
“Trump’s attempt to appeal to women is a bit late in the game,” he said. “He’s spent the last few years pushing them away, and his actions have aided Democrats when they said the GOP has a war on women.”
WATCH | Eric Trump praises his father’s role in giving ‘the forgotten man and woman’ a voice: