CLEVELAND – A war hero, a casino mogul and an openly gay high-tech investor are among the scheduled speakers at next week’s Republican National Convention, although Donald Trump is relying heavily on the party’s establishment to fill out the list.
The presumptive presidential nominee has approved a convention program that features at least 20 current or former elected officials, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a primary rival.
Absent from a list obtained Thursday by The Associated Press are Trump friends from professional sports such as New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady or the celebrities that the New York billionaire’s team long suggested would help make this convention unlike any other.
Still, there is no shortage of political outsiders.
Peter Thiel, PayPal co-founder, may be the first-openly gay speaker featured at a national Republican convention. His appearance comes as party leaders refuse to soften the GOP’s formal opposition to gay marriage.
Other speakers will include four of Trump’s children, Las Vegas casino owner Phil Ruffin, and actor and former underwear model Antonio Sabato Jr. College football star Tim Tebow will appear on stage, the campaign confirmed.
Mark Geist and John Tiegen, survivors of the deadly 2012 attack on the American diplomatic consulate in Benghazi, Libya, will speak.
“This impressive lineup of veterans, political outsiders, faith leaders and those who know Donald Trump the best – his family and longtime friends – represent a cross-section of real people facing the same challenges as every American household,” said Trump spokesman Jason Miller.
Some of the GOP’s biggest names are declining to participate in four-day convention, which begins on Monday.
Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, and the party’s two most recent presidential nominees, John McCain and Mitt Romney, plan to skip the event, as does Ohio Gov. John Kasich, another Trump primary challenger.
Shrugging off such absences, Trump’s team suggested the convention lineup would help highlight Trump’s outsider appeal.
“We are totally over-booked. We have great speakers, we have winners, we have people that aren’t only political people,” Trump told Fox News Channel on Tuesday. “We have a lot of people that are just champions and winners.”
He acknowledged in recent days that he’d stick a little closer to tradition.
“Look, I have great respect for the institution of the conventions. I mean to me, it’s very important. So we’re not going to change the wheel,” he said on Fox.
Brady was initially floated as a possible speaker, but he won’t appear. Neither will former Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight or boxing promoter Don King, a Cleveland resident and passionate Trump supporter.
The program will feature people such pro golfer Natalie Gulbis, retired astronaut Eileen Collins, and Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White. Former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, author of the book, “Lone Survivor,” about a 2005 firefight in Afghanistan, will make an appearance, along with a Wisconsin sheriff, David Clarke, who is a vocal critic of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The convention will highlight religious leaders such as Jerry Falwell Jr. and Haskel Lookstein, the New York rabbi who converted Trump’s daughter Ivanka to Judaism.
Trump does not forget his business relationships, giving speaking slots to real estate investor Tom Barrack and even the general manager for Virginia’s Trump Winery, Kerry Woolard.
In a nod toward party unity, Trump will feature several former presidential competitors, including Cruz, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Ben Carson and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Two finalists in Trump’s search for a running mate made the list as well: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich. The other finalist, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, was not included in the program obtained by the AP.