By STEVE PEOPLES and MICHELLE L. PRICE
NEW YORK (AP) — Democrats formally nominated Joe Biden as their candidate for president on Aug. 18, with party elders, a new generation of politicians and voters in every state joining together in an extraordinary, pandemic-cramped virtual convention to send him into the general election campaign to oust President Donald Trump.
For Biden, who has spent more than three decades eyeing the presidency, the moment was the realization of a long-sought personal goal. But it played out in a way that the 77-year-old Biden couldn’t have imagined just months ago as the coronavirus prompted profound change across the country and the presidential campaign.
Instead of a Milwaukee convention hall as initially planned, the roll call of convention delegates played out in a combination of live and recorded video feeds from American landmarks packed with meaning: Alabama’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, the headwaters of the Mississippi River, a Puerto Rican community still recovering from a hurricane.
Biden’s team did not give the night’s coveted keynote address to a single fresh face, preferring instead to pack the slot with more than a dozen Democrats in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. The younger leaders included former Georgia lawmaker Stacey Abrams, Rep. Conor Lamb., D-Pa., the president of the Navajo Nation Jonathan Nez, and Georgia state Rep. Sam Park.
Park, who became the first Asian American Democrat and first openly-gay man elected to the Georgia state legislature in 2016, unseated a three-term Republican with his victory four years ago.
“This year all of us are onstage,” 16 of the participants said, introducing the segment in a Hollywood Squares-like grid.
Biden celebrated his new place in history alongside his wife and grandchildren in a Delaware school library in the midst of the mostly online convention. His wife of more than 40 years, Jill Biden, later spoke in her prime-time appearance in deeply personal terms, reintroducing the lifelong politician as a man of deep empathy, faith and resilience to American voters just 77 days before votes are counted.
“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,” she said. “But I’ve always understood why he did it. He does it for you.”
Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State John Kerry—and former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell—were among the heavy hitters on a schedule that emphasized a simple theme: Leadership matters. Former President Jimmy Carter also made a brief appearance.
“Donald Trump says we’re leading the world. Well, we are the only major industrial economy to have its unemployment rate triple,” Clinton said. “At a time like this, the Oval Office should be a command center. Instead, it’s a storm center. There’s only chaos.”
For a second night, the Democrats featured Republicans.
Powell, who served as secretary of state under George W. Bush and appeared at multiple Republican conventions in years past, was endorsing the Democratic candidate. Powell joins the widow of the late Arizona Sen. John McCain, Cindy McCain, who was expected to stop short of a formal endorsement but talk about the mutual respect and friendship her husband and Biden shared.
The Democrats’ party elders played a prominent role throughout the night.
Clinton, 74, hasn’t held office in two decades. Kerry, 76, was the Democratic presidential nominee back in 2004 when the youngest voters this fall were still in diapers. And Carter is 95 years old.
Clinton, a fixture of Democratic conventions for nearly three decades, addressed voters for roughly five minutes in a speech recorded at his home in Chappaqua, New York.
In addition to railing against Trump’s leadership, Clinton calls Biden “a go-to-work president.” Biden, Clinton continued, is “a man with a mission: to take responsibility, not shift the blame; concentrate, not distract; unite, not divide.”
California Sen. Kamala Harris was originally supposed to speak on the last day of the convention, before Biden and his family. This was changed after she was announced as Biden’s running mate and her speaking slot was moved to the third day, Aug. 19.
This freed up a spot on Aug. 20, which was filled by entrepreneur Andrew Yang. But the switch did not come without controversy. When the initial list was released last week of who would address the convention, Yang was not assigned as a keynote speaker and he showcased his disappointment on Twitter.
Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth was also expected to speak on the final day of the convention.