Monday’s kickoff to the Democratic National Convention marks Biden’s moment to reset the narrative about the energy behind his candidacy.
For one, he’ll get out of the “basement,” even as the pandemic-afflicted convention will be largely virtual — planning to deliver his nomination address later in the week from a convention center in Delaware.
The star-studded lineup will aim to fire up a base that has suffered from an enthusiasm deficiency ever since Barack Obama stopped topping the Democratic ticket, with musical guest performances from John Legend and others stacked alongside addresses by the Obamas, the Clintons and (briefly) AOC.
“A huge priority has to be making the people who are watching from all around the country are enthusiastic about the national ballot, that they are excited about making their voices heard and that they feel invested and hopeful,” longtime Democratic consultant and communications strategist Lynda Tran said.
The four-day affair will also mark the test run for how the unprecedented virtual convention can be conducted, before Republicans follow suit the following week. For their part, the GOP is ready to batter Biden and his party for the duration of convention week. Expect to hear echoes of the allegations they’ve piled on the former veep all season.
“He’s been in the basement for a long time,” Trump said in a June interview on Fox News’ “Hannity” as he mocked the presumptive Democratic nominee.
Popular conservative radio host and Trump supporter Howie Carr labeled the former vice president “Punxsutawney Joe Biden,” a reference to the Pennsylvania groundhog who emerges to much fanfare once a year to predict how long winter will last.
While Biden has left his basement studio numerous times since May to hold small-scale campaign events in Delaware or neighboring Pennsylvania, it’s true that he’s run a low-key presidential general election campaign.
This is partly out of necessity – the coronavirus pandemic that swept the nation has prevented either Biden or Trump from holding traditional rallies or town halls. But the Biden strategy has also allowed the political spotlight to remain on the president and how he’s handled the federal response to the coronavirus and a national economy that collapsed due to pandemic restrictions. It appears to have worked so far – as Biden leads Trump in national polling and in most general election battleground state surveys.
But it’s unlikely Biden can sustain that approach for the duration of the general election campaign, especially with debates looming.
Now, with Biden’s historic announcement last week naming Sen. Kamala Harris of California as his running mate – the first black woman and Asian-American to serve on a major national political party ticket – the Democratic National Convention brings the spotlight back to Biden. The four nights of prime-time coverage begin with what are likely to be fiery addresses Monday night by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. — Biden’s former primary rival — and former first lady Michelle Obama.
Tran – a veteran of the Democratic National Committee and the Obama-era political group Organizing for America – touted what she called an “all-star lineup that is scheduled for every night of the convention” to feed “the hunger that viewers at home have.”
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., participate in a virtual grassroots fundraiser at the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington, Del., Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020.
To make up for a convention without the usual energy and excitement of a packed arena full of delegates, activists and party officials, the Biden campaign says they’ll have watch parties in all 50 states conducted on Zoom — with high-profile politicians and celebrities acting as hosts.
Manny Espitia – a New Hampshire state lawmaker and grassroots organizer who served as a top adviser in Julian Castro’s unsuccessful 2020 presidential campaign – said that Democratic voters he’s talked with “are pumped about” the convention. He predicted that the “very unconventional” convention will be a good way “to get people excited.”
But he also acknowledged that Democratic voters already are anxious to cast their ballot in hopes of removing Trump from the White House.
“I’ve talked to people in my district who’ve told me they want this election to happen already,” Espitia shared.
A new Fox News national poll reflects that interest. Seventy-one percent of Biden supporters questioned in the survey said they were extremely interested in the 2020 election – 10 percentage points higher than the 61% of Trump supporters who said they were extremely interested.
While the convention will give Democrats a platform to display party unity and a passing of the torch from former President Barack Obama to Biden and Harris, it will also offer opportunities to Trump and the GOP.
Longtime Republican pollster Neil Newhouse noted that “Biden’s absence from the campaign trail has resulted in the focus of this campaign being squarely on Donald Trump. That doesn’t necessarily work to his advantage.”
Newhouse, who was Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s pollster in the 2012 presidential campaign, emphasized that “in order for Trump to win this race, voters have to understand the contrast between the two candidates.”
And he spotlighted that the Democratic convention “is the beginning of the opportunities for Trump to demonstrate that difference.”