Trump convention speakers highlight unconventional choices

Donald Trump
Jim Bourg | Reuters

Donald Trump has pushed for a "showbiz" convention when Republicans gather in Cleveland next week, and his finally unveiled speaker schedule delivers in part on that promise.

A nontraditional lineup of public figures and family members will join politicians on the stage when the GOP convenes, with highlights including Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White, tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel, and real estate investor Tom Barrack slated to speak.

Other notable names on the list: Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Gov. Rick Scott. They will join a number of party leaders and five members of the Trump family on stage.

But what is unclear is who will garner the coveted keynote speaking slot, or if there will even be a keynote speech. Previous GOP conventions featured party leaders on the rise, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie grabbing the keynote slot in 2012 and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani getting the nod in 2008. Both Christie and Giuliani will speak at this year's convention.

The list of speakers comes a week later than Trump previously promised, with the convention set to kick off on Monday. With the announced theme of "Make America Great Again," the event will focus on issues that have driven Trump's campaign so far, including national security, immigration and trade.

However, this convention may be just as notable for the politicians attending as for those staying away. Republican patriarchs former President George W. Bush and former President George H.W. Bush have said through spokespeople they do not plan to attend. Last cycle's Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, has also said he will not attend.

A number of other high profile Republicans including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Arizona Sen. John McCain — himself a former GOP nominee — have also said they will not be attending, likely to help distance themselves from their party's divisive nominee as they run in competitive Senate races.

Along with politicians, corporations are also stepping back from contributing to the Republican National Convention this year, slashing the amount they typically contribute.

More broadly, some visitors and local businesses are wary of the potential for discord amid security concerns and Trump's reputation for emotionally charged rallies, and private security firms have seen a resulting whirlwind of business.

The convention will be held in Cleveland's Quicken Loans arena from Monday through Thursday night.