SOUTH BEND — Never before was a state delegation’s vote cast from South Bend. It was when former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the recent presidential nomination candidate, announced: “Here in South Bend, we once feared our best days were behind us. But then we reimagined our economy.”

The city’s economy wasn’t the only thing reimagined. The whole Democratic National Convention was. Buttigieg announced the delegation’s overwhelming support for Joe Biden as the unprecedented roll call of the states took place from sites in the states, not as was traditional in a packed convention hall.

Now, this week on TV, “The Trump Show.” The Republican National Convention also will be a virtual event, reimagined, but with a far different message. It will be all about praise for President Donald J. Trump, who controls everything at this convention. It’s his show. His party.

Trump is of course no stranger to starring in a television show. “The Apprentice,” the program that made Trump a national figure, was billed as a reality show. This show will portray what Trump sees as reality in America.

“You’re fired!” That’s the signature message Trump popularized on “The Apprentice.” It sent away some hopeful contestant, “fired” by Trump. That message now could be directed at Trump by voters on Nov. 3. So, Trump’s convention is designed to show that he shouldn’t be “fired,” that instead he deserves a second term.

Some voters wanting to mail a “You’re fired” ballot now fear what’s happening to the U.S. Postal Service. Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat nor gloom of night can stop mail delivery. Can the president?

Democratic speakers last week promoted two messages: One for Trump, “You’re fired.” The other for Joe Biden, “You’re hired.” The first was an easier sell, with Trump’s approval lagging. But even if voters are down on Trump, that doesn’t mean they automatically will vote for Biden. So, the second message was also important.

Both conventions had to be virtual because the pandemic still rages through many parts of the country. Democratic speakers cited that again and again, blaming a slow and inadequate response by Trump as causing failure to bring the coronavirus under control and prevent so many deaths, job losses and disruptions of lives.

The pandemic won’t be front and center in the convention this week. But some of what the Democrats said will be. Remarks of Democrats such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders and the numerous speakers who used a “Black lives matter” theme will be cited as a reason why Biden shouldn’t be trusted with the presidency. Is he a captive of the left wing of the Democratic Party, being led down a path of socialism and tolerance of rioting and looting? Yes, speakers will assert, contending it would be dangerous to “hire” Biden.

Democrats focused on presentations by and appeals to members of diverse groups.

Trump’s appeal this week won’t be so much to diverse groups, but instead to one solid group, the Trump base, where the Democratic diversity stuff isn’t appealing.    

Democrats hammered on a theme that Trump isn’t up to being president. Hammering this week by Republican speakers will be on Biden, that he wouldn’t be up to the job. They must, as the political consultants say, “build negatives” to weigh Biden down. They want the race to be viewed by voters as one of comparison, with Biden compared unfavorably, not just a referendum on whether to approve of Trump.  

Trump, with a chance to catch up and win in the Electoral College, can do so if enough voters in the key states look critically at Biden and decide they just can’t say, “You’re hired.”

Trump, however, could be sent off like a losing contestant on “The Apprentice” if a majority of voters in those battleground states decide to tell him, “You’re fired.” 

Colwell covers Indiana politics for the South Bend Tribune.