From Jimmy Carter to AOC, Democrats to highlight party's past and future

(Reuters) – Democrats will highlight the party’s future leaders and turn to a political powerhouse from the past, former President Bill Clinton, to make the case for U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden at their national convention on Tuesday.

Biden’s wife, Jill Biden, one of his closest political advisers, will deliver the main speech for the second night of the Democratic National Convention, after an opening night that featured a scathing attack on President Donald Trump from former first lady Michelle Obama.

Biden will be formally nominated on Tuesday. With the four-day convention largely virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic, delegates from around the country will cast votes remotely to confirm Biden, 77, as the Democratic nominee for the Nov. 3 election against the Republican Trump, 74.

The convention is being held amid worries about the safety of in-person voting. Democrats have pushed mail-in ballots as an alternative and have put pressure on the head of the U.S. Postal Service, a top Trump donor who has ordered cost cuts that have led to mail delivery delays. Bowing to that pressure, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy suspended the cost-cutting measures until after the election.

Rather than a single keynote speaker on Tuesday, the convention program will put the spotlight on 17 of the party’s rising stars, including Stacey Abrams, the one-time Georgia gubernatorial nominee whom Biden considered for a running mate.

The night’s theme is “Leadership Matters,” organizers said.

In an effort to draw attention away from Biden, Trump will deliver a speech in Arizona, a hotly contested battleground state that can swing to either party and play a decisive role in the election.

Hours before his planned speech, the president said a massive shift to mail-in voting could cause so many problems officials might have to re-do the vote, 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 include former President Jimmy Carter, U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading liberal figure; and Sally Yates, the former acting U.S. attorney general who clashed with Trump during her brief tenure overseeing the Justice Department.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry will blast Trump’s handling of foreign policy, telling reporters ahead of his speech later on Tuesday that under Trump, “the United States is not the leader of the free world.”

Another planned speaker, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, told CNN that he will bash Trump’s immigration policies from Brooklyn, New York, with the Statue of Liberty appearing over his shoulder.

Democrats used Monday’s opening program to demonstrate the broad coalition committed to defeating Trump in November.

Senator Bernie Sanders, the liberal who was Biden’s chief rival for the nomination, urged his supporters to get behind the more moderate Biden despite their policy differences. Former Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich argued that Trump poses a threat so dire that Republicans should consider voting for a Democrat in the race for the White House.

But Michelle Obama’s impassioned speech drew the most attention. She decried Trump as the “wrong president” for a country reeling from the pandemic, an economic crash and a national reckoning on race relations.

Trump on Tuesday slammed the former first lady’s remarks and reiterated his attacks on the previous administration of former President Barack Obama and Biden, Obama’s vice president.

“Somebody please explain to @MichelleObama that Donald J. Trump would not be here, in the beautiful White House, if it weren’t for the job done by your husband, Barack Obama. Biden was merely an afterthought,” he wrote on Twitter.

Trump also blasted the Obama administration’s handling of the 2009 H1N1 swine flu outbreak even as his own administration grapples with COVID-19. About 12,000 people died from H1N1, U.S. statistics show, compared to more than 170,000 U.S. deaths from the coronavirus pandemic still underway, according to a Reuters tally.

Joe Biden will deliver his acceptance speech on Thursday night. His vice presidential pick, Senator Kamala Harris, will headline Wednesday night’s program along with Obama.

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.

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