Former Vice President Joe Biden will accept the Democratic presidential convention in a Thursday address, culminating a decades-long climb in politics and setting up a general election battle with President Trump that his party is desperate to win.
The final evening of the convention will center on answering the central question, “Who is Joe Biden?”
It will feature various voices from all parts of the former vice president’s life, reintroducing him to the nation, according to sources familiar with Thursday night’s program.
“Most people know Joe Biden from the vice presidency but they don’t know much else,” said one longtime ally to the former vice president. “By the time he formally accepts the nomination, I think people will have a very clear sense of who he is, why he’s the better choice than Trump and why the current president is not empathic and unqualified to be president.
Biden is expected to draw a sharp contrast with Trump during his address, which will be delivered from his home state of Delaware because of the coronavirus pandemic.
He will make the case that the president is not capable to lead the country, zeroing in on issues of character and integrity, sources familiar with Thursday night’s program say.
“The overall point of his speech will be ‘This is who I am and this is who the president is’ and he’ll make that point over and over again,” said one Biden ally.
While a number of polls have shown Biden with a healthy lead in the presidential race both nationally and in key swing states, a CNN poll released earlier his week pointed to a tighter race.
It showed Biden and his running mate Senator Kamala Harris with 50 percent, and 46 percent backing Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
The CNN poll was even closer in the 15 battleground states likely to decide the race, with Biden receiving 49 percent of support from registered voters and Trump just below him at 48 percent.
“There’s been a lot of Trump bashing so far at the convention but Biden needs to make his own case in his convention speech,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon.
“Some of Biden’s support in the polls is soft because many of his voters are voting against Trump instead of voting for the former vice president,” Bannon said. “The case against Trump has already been made. What Biden needs to do is sell himself. The best way to sell himself is for the Democratic nominee to convince Americans that only he can unify a nation that is spiraling out of control.”
That’s why Thursday night is pivotal if Biden is to win a post-election bounce from his feting.
Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons said that for the most part, Democratic voters are “at peace with who Biden is.”
“For those making up their mind, he just needs to be a credible choice,” Simmons said. “What voters want is normalcy. I didn’t think that was a credible message a year ago but now it’s obvious that voters just want to go back to something that is normal and predictable.”
Testimonials and videos at the virtual Democratic convention have centered around depicting Biden, a vice president for eight years and a senator for more than 30 who has been at the center of U.S. political life for decades, as a normal, everyday guy.
Biden has run for president twice before, chaired the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings and carries a rolodex that would be the envy of any politician or world leader.
At the convention, the focus has been on casting Biden as an average guy who grew up with a stutter, took the Amtrak to work in Washington so that he could spend more time with his young sons, and who suffered immeasurable loss first with the death of his wife and infant daughter and years later with his grown son.
When he accepted his party’s nomination on Tuesday night, he did so with little pomp, in a high school library — a setting that speaks to the normalcy he promises to bring.
In her speech on Monday night, former first lady Michelle Obama summed it up by saying Biden “will govern as someone who’s lived a life that the rest of us can recognize.”
It’s a normalcy that Democrats hope voters are craving for after the Trump years.
And this theme is one Biden and his associates and allies intend to hammer home on Thursday.
Democratic strategists say Thursday night will be a successful night for Biden if he continues to highlight those themes, using the pandemic as the latest example for why this election is a referendum on Trump.
“Biden needs to build upon the convention’s themes to further define his governance style as President: empathic, bipartisan, and with an eye toward regaining leadership in the world,” said Basil Smikle, who served as the executive director of the New York State Democratic Party and was a former aide to Hillary Clinton.
Simmons and other strategists say the crises facing the nation are well-suited to Biden’s strengths, something that will be on full display on Thursday night.
“It’s not just that Joe knows pain and suffering. He knows what to do the day after and what to do to get back up again,” Simmons said. “This is a moment made for Joe’s talents.”