Donald Trump once promised a “showbiz” convention, packed with flash, celebrities and a “winner’s night” featuring sports stars and champion coaches.
Instead, the Republican National Convention kicking off Monday is shaping up to be a staid family-focused affair, with a lineup that features everyday Americans, successful business people and four of his five children.
“The plan for the Trump campaign for this convention is to help the American people understand more about Donald Trump the man, not just the candidate that they’ve seen on the campaign trail,” his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, told reporters gathered in Cleveland ahead of the convention’s kick-off.
Instead of featuring “a bunch of Washington politicians,” Manafort said the goal was to focus on ordinary people impacted by the current president’s policies, along with friends, employees and others who’ve worked with Trump over the years who can talk about his “business acumen and his personal life, his ability to solve problems. ”
“I think the historic nature of the convention will be the impact that family members have in talking about the candidate because we feel that the personal story of Donald Trump is something that needs to be told and it’ll be told from their eyes best,” he said.
The final speaking schedule, released Sunday evening by the Republican Party, does offer a heavy dose of Republican insiders. Former presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio (by video) are on the list, as are a handful of members of Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan will also speak.
As for star power, the offerings are unexpectedly dim. There’s Willie Robertson from “Duck Dynasty,” along with actor Scott Baio, star of “Charles In Charge,” ”Joanie Loves Chachi” and “Happy Days.” Soap operas get their nods in the form of actor and former Calvin Klein underwear model Antonio Sabato Jr. and Kimberlin Brown, a California avocado farmer best known for her roles on “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “The Young and the Restless.”
Trump’s campaign has been notable for showcasing his business ventures, including hotels and golf clubs. That pattern will continue at the convention with the inclusion of speakers like Kerry Woolard, the general manager of Trump Winery in Virginia.
The program is designed to present Trump’s agenda, while contrasting it with the approaches of Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama.
Monday’s program, for instance, will focus on security and the risks posed by illegal immigration, with speeches from Pat Smith, the mother of Sean Smith, who was killed in the attack in Benghazi, Libya. U.S. Marine veterans Mark Geist and John Tiegen, who fought that night,, are scheduled, too. Jamiel Shaw, whose son was killed by a man living in the U.S. illegally, will also speak.
Speaking Monday as well will be Trump’s wife, Melania, a rare presence on the campaign trail, and his adult children, Ivanka, Don Jr., Eric and the lesser-known Tiffany. Trump’s vice presidential pick, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, will speak Wednesday. Trump will deliver his speech accepting the nomination on Thursday.
Last spring, Trump repeatedly blasted the 2012 GOP convention as “the single most boring” he’d ever seen.
“The concept of some entertainment from a great singer, a great group I think would be something maybe to break things up,” Trump told The Associated Press in May. “You’ll be hearing plenty of political speeches. And after a while, you’ll say, ‘Maybe I want to hear something else.'”
At his rallies, Trump often spoke of a “winners’ evening” featuring “some of the great sports people I know.” He even said he’d be open to a return performance by the actor Clint Eastwood, whose monologue standing next to an empty chair at the 2012 convention was widely panned.
Manafort insisted that the convention would be just as unconventional as the one Trump has long envisioned.
“He said it would be a different kind of convention and it will be a different kind of convention,” Manafort said.