“Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t, and the consequences of that failure are severe,” Obama said. “170,000 Americans dead. Millions of jobs gone while those at the top take in more than ever. Our worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished and our democratic institutions threatened like never before.”
On a night in which Harris is set to make history by becoming the first Black woman and South Asian woman to be nominated on a major party’s presidential ticket, the first Black president, the first woman to lead a presidential ticket and the most powerful female politician in US history all touted the Biden-Harris ticket as the antidote for Trump’s presidency.
“I wish Donald Trump had been a better president. Because America needs a better president than this,” said Clinton, who insisted she meant it after the last election when she said Trump was owed an open mind and a chance to lead.
But the former Democratic nominee, speaking from her living room in Chappaqua, New York, said the President had shown himself unequal to a moment of national crisis and has indulged his ego, lacked humanity and had failed to govern.
“Remember back in 2016 when Trump asked: ‘What do you have to lose?’ Well, now we know: our health, our jobs, our loved ones. Our leadership in the world and, even, our post office,” Clinton said, before calling for everyone to vote — a plea perhaps only she could make.
“Don’t forget: Joe and Kamala can win 3 million more votes and still lose. Take it from me. We need numbers so overwhelming Trump can’t sneak or steal his way to victory.”
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised lower health care costs, bigger paychecks, racial justice reform and bills to protect undocumented immigrants brought to the US as kids, LGBTQ rights and to fight climate change.
But she said those goals were only within reach with a change of leadership in the Senate and the White House.
“All of this is possible for America. Who is standing in the way? Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump,” Pelosi said referring to the Senate majority leader.
Obama tears into Trump
Obama made the case for his former vice president in what was a sharp rebuke of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the presidency in general. It also served as a symbolic moment cooked up by the former President himself.
Initially, the convention had Obama scheduled to speak after whoever was to be Biden’s running mate. But once Harris was selected, Obama suggested switching the order so he could speak first, followed by her.
“It felt like an opportunity to symbolically pass the torch, give her her moment and spotlight,” a person close to Obama said.
The 44th President’s speech was one of the most confrontational and blistering statements he has made about his successor.
The former President argued that Trump has shown no interest in “finding common ground,” or “using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends.”
In a preemptive strike against Obama during his White House briefing Wednesday evening, Trump called his predecessor “ineffective” and “terrible.”
“The reason I’m here is because of President Obama and Joe Biden,” Trump said Wednesday. “Because if they did a good job, I wouldn’t be here, and probably if they did a good job, I wouldn’t have even run. I would have been very happy. I enjoyed my previous life very much, but they did such a bad job that I stand before you as President.”
Serving as a character witness for Biden, Obama spoke of his former vice president as a brother even though they come from different generations and different backgrounds. He spoke of Biden as a proud and devoted father who showed great resilience after the death of his first wife and baby daughter in 1972 and his son Beau Biden in 2015 — and now helps other grieving families rebuild their lives.
“For eight years, Joe was the last one in the room whenever I faced a big decision. He made me a better president — and he’s got the character and the experience to make us a better country,” Obama said. He asked voters to believe in “Joe and Kamala’s ability to lead this country out of these dark times and build it back better.”
“Joe and Kamala will restore our standing in the world — and as we’ve learned from this pandemic, that matters,” the former president said. “Joe knows the world, and the world knows him. He knows that our true strength comes from setting an example the world wants to follow — a nation that stands with democracy, not dictators; a nation that can inspire and mobilize others to overcome threats like climate change, terrorism, poverty and disease.”
“But more than anything, what I know about Joe, what I know about Kamala, is that they actually care about every American,” he said.
Obama acknowledged that many voters have already made up their minds and spoke to voters who are questioning whether they should vote at all, outlining why he believes Biden will make a good president. Though the two men did not know one another well when Obama chose Biden as his running mate, he said that they became as close as brothers over the past 12 years.
“Joe and I came from different places and different generations. But what I quickly came to admire about him is his resilience, born of too much struggle; his empathy, born of too much grief,” Obama said. “Joe’s a man who learned early on to treat every person he meets with respect and dignity, living by the words his parents taught him: ‘No one’s better than you, but you’re better than nobody.'”
Harris’ night to shine
During a brief cameo from Wilmington, Delaware, where she will close out the convention programming later on Wednesday, Harris spoke about the importance of voting in the midst of an assault on mail-in-voting by Trump, whose administration has been making moves to undermine the post office.
“So I think we need to ask ourselves, why don’t they want us to vote? Why is there so much effort to silence our voices? And the answer is because when we vote, things change. When we vote, things get better. When we vote, we address the need for all people to be treated with dignity and respect.”
Introducing herself to the nation Wednesday night, Harris will portray her story, as the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, as one that can resonate with all Americans as she makes the case for electing former Vice President Joe Biden.
Focusing on the theme of inclusivity after four years of President Donald Trump’s divisive politics, she will say that she and Biden are committed to “a vision of our nation as a beloved community — where all are welcome, no matter what we look like, where we come from, or who we love.” And one where Americans may not “agree on every detail” but are “united by the fundamental belief that every human being is of infinite worth, deserving of compassion, dignity and respect,” according to excerpted remarks released ahead of her speech.
Harris will formally become the first Black and South Asian woman ever nominated to a major presidential party ticket.
In her own presidential campaign last year, the California senator often argued that President Donald Trump’s tactics have torn the nation apart as he forced the separation of families at the border, vilified immigrants, fired career civil servants and excoriated his political opponents. She and the former vice president, she plans to say, will restore the principles of inclusion and opportunity for all Americans, regardless of race or class.
Under Trump’s presidency, many Americans feel adrift in the “constant chaos,” alone because of the President’s “callousness” and afraid of “the incompetence,” Harris will say.
“We must elect a president who will bring something different, something better, and do the important work. A president who will bring all of us together — Black, White, Latino, Asian, Indigenous — to achieve the future we collectively want,” Harris plans to say, according to excerpts from her remarks. “We must elect Joe Biden.”
Three generations of women — Harris’ sister Maya Harris, her niece Meena Harris, and her stepdaughter, Ella Emhoff — will deliver speeches virtually officially nominating the California senator as the Democratic nominee for vice president of the United States.
Democrats highlight women across the party
A major theme of the night was the female leadership throughout the party, from the grassroots to the highest levels of power.
Trump has often sought to appeal to “the suburban housewife” in his tweets in the last few months, highlighting the importance of the female vote to his campaign. Democrats have been a bit more subtle, instead highlighting the influx of new female lawmakers in the 2018 midterm elections, the resilience of former Rep. Gabby Giffords from a near-fatal gunshot wound in 2011 and appealing to issues like gun control, climate change, female-owned small businesses and child care.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren made child care the focus of her address, highlighting Biden’s plan to make it more affordable to the average American family.
“It’s time to recognize that child care is part of the basic infrastructure of this nation—it’s infrastructure for families,” Warren said. “Joe and Kamala will make high-quality child care affordable for every family, make preschool universal, and raise the wages for every child care worker.”
Pelosi contrasted that female leadership with her interactions with Trump, which have often been contentious and explosive — culminating in Trump exploding in anger at the House speaker last fall and the veteran California Democrat walking out on the meeting, still the last time they have spoken.
“As speaker, I’ve seen firsthand Donald Trump’s disrespect for facts, for working families and for women in particular — disrespect written into his policies toward our health and our rights, not just his conduct,” Pelosi said. “But we know what he doesn’t: that when women succeed, America succeeds. And so we are unleashing the full power of women to take their rightful place in every part of our national life.”
This is a breaking story and will be updated.
CNN’s Jeff Zeleny contributed to this report.