Former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter argued on Tuesday that Joe Biden has the experience and integrity to restore a pandemic-devastated America, as Democrats formally nominated Biden for president at their national convention.
The convention’s second night, under the theme “Leadership Matters,” aimed to make the case that Biden would represent a return to normalcy after the “chaos” of Republican President Donald Trump’s administration, as Clinton put it.
“At a time like this, the Oval Office should be a command center,” he said in a prerecorded video. “Instead, it’s a storm center. There’s only chaos. Just one thing never changes – his determination to deny responsibility and shift the blame.”
With the four-day convention largely virtual due to the coronavirus, delegates from around the country cast votes remotely to confirm Biden as the nominee.
As they did on Monday’s opening night, Democrats featured a handful of Republicans who have crossed party lines to praise Biden, 77, over Trump, 74, ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
Jill Biden was set to deliver the headline speech later in the evening, arguing that her husband’s capacity for empathy will help him offer solace to a battered nation. Former Secretary of State John Kerry was also due to speak.
The program started by showcasing some of the party’s rising politicians. But rather than a single keynote speech that could be a star-making turn, as it was for then-state Senator Barack Obama in 2004, the program featured 17 stars in a video address, including Stacey Abrams, the one-time Georgia gubernatorial nominee whom Biden once considered for a running mate.
“America faces a triple threat: a public health catastrophe, and economic collapse and a reckoning with racial justice and inequality,” Abrams said. “So our choice is clear: a steady experienced public servant who can lead us out of this crisis just like he’s done before, or a man who only knows how to deny and distract.”
Sally Yates, the former acting U.S. attorney general whom Trump fired for refusing to defend his travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries, castigated Trump as corrupt.
“From the moment President Trump took office, he’s used his position to benefit himself, rather than our country,” she said. “He’s even trying to sabotage our postal service to keep people from being able to vote.”
Cindy McCain, widow of Republican Senator John McCain, was scheduled to appear in a video talking about her husband’s long friendship with Biden, according to a preview posted online. Trump clashed with McCain, who was the Republican nominee for president in 2008, and the president criticized McCain even after his 2018 death.
Republican former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who endorsed Biden in June, was one of several national security officials due to speak on the Democrat’s behalf.
Biden was scheduled to give his acceptance speech on Thursday. His vice presidential pick, Senator Kamala Harris, will headline Wednesday night’s program along with Obama.
Without the cheering crowds at the in-person gathering originally planned for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, TV viewership on Monday was down from 2016. But an additional 10.2 million people watched on digital platforms, the Biden campaign said, for a total audience of nearly 30 million.
Aiming to draw attention away from Biden, Trump, trailing in opinion polls, held a campaign rally in Arizona, a hotly contested battleground state that can swing to either party and play a decisive role in the election.
The convention was being held amid worries about the safety of in-person voting. Democrats have pushed mail-in ballots as an alternative and pressured the head of the U.S. Postal Service, a top Trump donor, to suspend cost cuts that delayed mail deliveries. Bowing to that pressure, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy put off the cost-cutting measures until after the election.
Hours before his speech, the president said a massive shift to mail-in voting could cause so many problems officials might have to hold another election, a far-fetched possibility given that a national U.S. election “re-do” has never occurred and Trump lacks the authority to order one.
Other Democratic speakers on Tuesday included U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading liberal figure known as AOC.
The Republican National Convention, also largely virtual, takes place next week. Trump will give his acceptance speech at the White House, despite criticism he is politicizing the presidential residence.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Additional reporting by Katanga Johnson and Alexandra Alper in Washington, Michael Martina in Detroit, and Trevor Hunnicutt in Wilmington; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Howard Goller)