By James Oliphant and Doina Chiacu
WASHINGTON, Aug 24 (Reuters) - The Republican Party kicked off its convention to re-elect U.S President Donald Trump with an unsubstantiated daytime warning from Trump himself that he may face a "rigged election," full-throated praise for Trump during the evening events, and warnings that America would crumble without his leadership.
UNSUBSTANTIATED CLAIMS ABOUT VOTER FRAUD
In an unscheduled speech in Charlotte, North Carolina, Trump repeated his allegation on Monday that voting by mail, a long-standing feature of American elections that is expected to be far more common during the coronavirus pandemic, could lead to an increase in fraud. Independent election security experts say voter fraud is quite rare in the United States.
WARNINGS OF A DISAPPEARING AMERICA
Conservative activist Charlie Kirk, who led off the evening speeches, called the presidential election nothing less than a decision between "preserving America as we know it and eliminating everything that we love."
The goal, as Trump advisers have said, is not necessarily persuading swing voters to like the president but to contend that voting for Democratic nominee Joe Biden is the bigger risk.
HEIGHTENED PRAISE FOR TRUMP
Any presidential party convention is a coronation of the party's nominee. Last week's Democratic National Convention featured a full spectrum of people speaking about Biden's character, from career politicians to an elevator operator.
Some speakers' praise for Trump during the first day of the Republican convention went further.
"He started a movement to reclaim our government from the rotten cartel of insiders that have been destroying our country," Kirk said. "We may not realize it at the time. But Trump is the bodyguard of Western civilization."
A PUSH FOR BLACK VOTERS
Kim Klacik, an African-American congressional candidate from Baltimore, is a long shot to win her race, but she scored a prime speaking slot on the Republican convention's first night.
Klacik was part of an effort on the first night of the convention to showcase Black supporters of Trump following a Democratic convention that highlighted that party's diversity.
Trump received just 8 percent of the African-American vote in 2016. His opponent's running mate, Kamala Harris, seeks to become the first Black woman vice president. Trump has regularly criticized the Black Lives Matter movement.
"The Democratic Party does not want Black people to leave their mental plantation," Georgia state Representative Vernon Jones said. "We've been forced to be there for decades and generations. But I have news for Joe Biden. We are free. We are free people with free minds."
Football legend Herschel Walker declared Trump his "friend" and not a "racist."
Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the chamber's only Black Republican, is scheduled to speak in the closing slot for the evening. (Reporting by Jim Oliphant and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Heather Timmons and Peter Cooney)
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