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What to watch for on Day 2 of the Democratic National Convention

Dr. Jill Biden introduces her husband democratic presidential hopeful former US Vice President Joe Biden during a town hall at the Proulx Community Center in Franklin, New Hampshire on November 8, 2019.

Joseph Prezioso | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – It’s Day 2 of the Democratic National Convention, and in some ways, convention organizers have already passed their biggest test. On Monday night, Democrats proved that they could string together enough different formats, speeches and musical acts to make a two-hour, commercial free broadcast both cohesive and compelling. 

They were helped in their effort by a theme that ran through all of Monday night: President Donald Trump, his leadership failings and the urgent need to defeat him in November. Speaker after speaker stressed the importance of creating one big anti-Trump coalition where everyone, Democrats, progressives and moderates, but also Republicans and even conservatives would be welcome.

On Tuesday night, organizers will need to thread an arguably more difficult needle, to create a unified broadcast around the official theme, “Leadership Matters.”

Old guard, new guard

One way to think of Day 2 is that it’s a bridge between the old and new guard of the Democratic party, a chance to give airtime to rising stars in the party like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Stacey Abrams, as well as Democratic stalwarts like former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State John Kerry. 

Clinton is known for having delivered memorable convention speeches in the past. But this year, his remarks will be pre-recorded and much shorter than his usual speaking slot. It remains to be seen whether the former president can deliver a compelling message in this new format.

“At a time like this, the Oval Office should be a command center. Instead, it’s a storm center. There’s only chaos. Just one thing never changes — his determination to deny responsibility and shift the blame. The buck never stops there,” Clinton will say according to excerpts released Tuesday afternoon.

He adds: “Our party is united in offering you a very different choice: a go-to-work president. A down-to-earth, get-the-job-done guy. A man with a mission: to take responsibility, not shift the blame; concentrate, not distract; unite, not divide. Our choice is Joe Biden.”

Former US President Bill Clinton

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Ocasio-Cortez, meanwhile, has been selected to formally nominate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders ahead of the roll call vote, a speaking slot that only lasts 60 seconds. Some progressives complained in recent days that Ocasio-Cortez was effectively being snubbed by only getting a minute to speak. Still, it’s more time than other freshman House members are getting. What she does with her minute – stick to the script or shake things up – will be worth watching. 

Rising stars

Along with the household name leaders, the evening will also feature local leaders who are making a difference in their own communities. A total of 57 states and territories will participate in the party’s official nominating roll call, which has been recast this year into a montage of leaders, all formally nominating former vice president Joe Biden. 

The convention’s keynote address will also be Tuesday night. A coveted speaking gig, the keynote address is best known as the speaking slot that launched then-Sen. Barack Obama onto the national stage in 2004. This year, the slot will be shared by 17 promising young Democratic elected officials, who will each give a slice of the speech. If it sounds like a logistical nightmare, that’s because it is. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Don Emmert | AFP | Getty Images

Jill Biden’s moment

The highlight of the night is doubtless going to be Jill Biden’s speech, the last of the night. Biden, a career teacher, will deliver her speech live from the actual classroom in Delaware where she taught English in the early 1990s. 

Biden has long been a popular and largely uncontroversial political spouse, who notably continued teaching English at a community college while she was serving as the second lady of the United States.

But this speech will be Biden’s first major address as the spouse of the presidential nominee, and as the nation’s would-be first lady. While the speech is expected to present an intimate portrait of Joe Biden as a father, a husband and a leader, it will also be a chance for Biden herself to step into the spotlight on a bigger stage than she ever has before. 

“How do you make a broken family whole? The same way you make a nation whole,” Biden will say. “With love and understanding—and with small acts of compassion. With bravery. With unwavering faith.” 

“There are times when I couldn’t imagine how he did it—how he put one foot in front of the other and kept going. But I’ve always understood why he did it…He does it for you,” Biden will add. 

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