WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The third night of the Democratic National Convention featured a lineup of high-wattage political star power: former President Barack Obama, 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and, lastly, 2020 vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris.
Here are takeaways from Wednesday’s program:
THE BATTLE IS JOINED
It was a night set aside for Harris’ history-making turn as the first Black woman and Asian American on a major U.S. presidential ticket, but Obama’s blistering indictment of President Donald Trump left the biggest mark.
Dispensing with any notion of civility between those who have held the office, Obama painted his successor as a venal self-dealer and an existential threat to democracy. It was the kind of language that Obama four years ago avoided employing despite his deep concerns about Trump at the time.
Biden may be on the ticket in 2020, but the dynamic between Obama and Trump remains powerful theater. Trump’s political career was driven by his false accusations that Obama was an illegitimate president, and he has spent much of his own presidency trying to undo Obama’s accomplishments.
Trump made clear earlier in the day he still viewed Obama as an adversary. “See you on the field of battle,” he tweeted. A few hours later, Obama met him there.
WOMEN HEADLINING - AND WATCHING
Women dominated the convention’s first two nights as speakers and moderators - and did so again on Wednesday.
The program closer was Harris, who was formally nominated as the vice presidential nominee and delivered a speech assailing Trump for “a failure of leadership.” She also celebrated the efforts of generations of women before her who fought for equal rights and praised her mother for raising her to be strong and purposeful.
For Harris, a rival of Biden’s early in the nominating process, it was the most consequential address she had given – and served as a preview of the role she is likely to play ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
Harris was preceded by Clinton, who empathized with the “slings and arrows” Harris will face in the campaign. “But believe me, this former district attorney and attorney general can handle them all,” Clinton said.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi highlighted the growing ranks of women serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who also ran for president, recalled how childcare struggles nearly sank her professional ambitions.
Biden’s work in support of women, including his advocacy for the Violence Against Women Act while in Congress, was praised by Harris and others.
Watching at home: millions of women voters in swing counties who likely will determine who the next president is going to be.
CLINTON OFFERS WARNING
If Clinton had her way, she would have been speaking this week as the U.S. president seeking a second term.
Instead, she urged voters who regret putting Trump in the White House over her four years ago not to make the same mistake in 2020, and to back Biden.
“I wish Donald Trump knew how to be a president, because America needs a president right now,” Clinton said.
Ironically, the person who may miss Clinton as much as anyone is Trump. He has had a difficult time demonizing Biden the way he did “Crooked Hillary,” taking advantage of the antipathy some swing voters held toward her.
More irony: After losing the 2016 election, Clinton was pilloried for having done little campaigning in Wisconsin, which helped propel Trump to the presidency. Now with COVID-19 canceling the in-person convention in Milwaukee, she could not make it to the state for her scheduled appearance.
Democrats opened the night with a plea to end gun violence.
Highlighting the issue were former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords of Arizona, a victim of a mass shooter in 2011, and Emma Gonzalez, who became an activist after the 2018 mass shooting at her high school in Parkland, Florida.
During the Democratic nominating race, Biden frequently talked about gun control, an issue his party has embraced as a winning campaign message.
Biden spoke of being entrusted as vice president with finding solutions for gun violence by Obama after the killing of 20 schoolchildren in 2012 by a gunman in Newtown, Connecticut. He spoke with pride about taking on the National Rifle Association as a senator when he helped pass a since-expired ban on assault weapons.
Even amid the coronavirus pandemic and the economic downturn, gun rights could still be a flashpoint for some voters in the election.
Republicans will likely devote significant time to hammering Democrats on the issue at their own convention next week. It is one reason why a St. Louis couple who waved guns at Black Lives Matter protesters in June have been invited to speak.
Reporting by James Oliphant; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Peter Cooney
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