WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In the biggest speech of his nearly 50 years in public life, Joe Biden will spell out his vision for the presidency on Thursday when he accepts the Democratic nomination to challenge Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 U.S. election.
Biden’s speech on the fourth and final night of the Democratic National Convention will be a high point in a long political career for the former U.S. senator and vice president, who fared poorly in two previous runs for the White House in 1988 and 2008.
It will conclude a nominating convention that was held virtually amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the party’s biggest names, rising stars and even prominent Republicans lining up via video to support Biden and attest to the urgency of ending what they called Trump’s chaotic presidency.
Biden’s vice presidential choice, Kamala Harris, the first Black woman and Asian American on a major presidential ticket, accepted her nomination on Wednesday and accused Trump of failed leadership that had cost lives and livelihoods.
Former President Barack Obama, who Biden served as vice president for eight years, delivered his harshest critique of Trump yet at the convention, saying his hopes that Trump would grow into the job had been dashed.
He blamed Trump for the 170,000 people who had died in the United States from the coronavirus, the millions of jobs lost to the ensuing recession and a diminishment of the country’s democratic principles at home and abroad.
Biden, 77, heads into the general election campaign with a clear and steady lead in opinion polls over Trump, 74, who will accept the Republican nomination for a second White House term at his own convention next week.
Democrats have worked to expand Biden’s support during the convention, particularly by showcasing prominent Republican supporters such as former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Ohio Governor John Kasich, as well as Americans who voted for Trump in 2016 but now blame him for the economic and health toll of the pandemic.
The acceptance speech will give Biden his biggest audience since he was largely sidelined from the campaign trail by the coronavirus in March.
He will speak directly to camera in a mostly empty event center in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, not in front of a roaring crowd of convention delegates, adding to the unusual nature of a convention conducted remotely through live and pre-recorded video feeds.
A close ally of Biden’s, U.S. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, said he expected the speech to offer a unifying theme about the country and not to focus on Trump.
“He recognizes this isn’t about Donald Trump, it’s not about Joe Biden, it’s about us, and it’s about who’s going to move us forward in a way that reminds us of the best in America, not the worst,” Coons said.
Trump has campaigned cross-country to offer counter-programming to the Democrats, a break with tradition in which candidates limit their activities during their opponents’ conventions.
The president will hold a campaign event on Thursday near Biden’s birthplace of Scranton in the political battleground state of Pennsylvania, where he is expected to slam Biden’s decades of government service.
Late on Wednesday, Trump issued three tweets in all capital letters during the last half of the Democratic convention program, angrily criticizing Harris and Obama and questioning their allegiance to Biden.
Other scheduled convention speakers on Thursday include Biden’s 2020 primary rival, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, along with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, both of whom were on Biden’s short list of possible running mates.
Biden captured the nomination by convincing Democratic primary voters he was the best bet to beat Trump.
Despite questions about his age and criticism of his moderate stances in a party that has lurched leftward, he was able to quickly unite the Democrats’ sometimes fractious liberal and moderate wings with the goal of defeating Trump.
His last primary rival, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, ended his campaign in April, clearing the way for the showdown between Biden and Trump. Sanders urged his supporters to back Biden during a speech to the convention on Monday, saying Biden would end the “hate and divisions” fostered by Trump.
Biden became a U.S. senator from Delaware in 1973, and rose to become an influential chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Senate Foreign Relations committees before becoming Obama’s vice president.
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