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What To Expect From The 2020 Democratic National Convention


Democrats kick off their nominating convention tomorrow night, and it's going to be an unusual one - no crowds, all virtual speeches from remote locations. So what can we expect, and how might the convention change the race? NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro joins us now.

Hi, Domenico.


FADEL: So remind us first what this convention will look like.

MONTANARO: Well, you know, it was supposed to take place in person in Milwaukee before the coronavirus hit, it but now it's going to be a big TV production with a mix of live and pretaped segments with people all across the country. The speeches are going to be shorter than past years. There are going to be fewer speakers than in past years. And a Biden campaign official told me that in preparing for this, they looked at the few major TV events that have already taken place since the coronavirus swept the country.

Think about LeBron James' We Graduate Together (ph) event, the Global Citizen One World: Together At Home event that was done in coordination with the World Health Organization and the NFL draft. They said that they watched those things, they saw in some of them, they were all pretaped. In some, they were all live or parts of it being live. And they're going to have to do a mix of that, and it's going to be a complicated thing that they're going to be trying to pull off.

It's going to be four nights from 9 to 11 p.m. Eastern time, wrapping up on Thursday with Biden's official nomination, so we can finally stop calling him the presumptive nominee. And he'll be giving his acceptance speech from his home city of Wilmington, Del.

And part of that is to sort of show this difference in leadership between him and Trump to say that he's taking the coronavirus more seriously. We're going to have different themes each night meant to highlight that difference and show the vision for the future for the Biden-Harris ticket, healthy dose of Biden's biography and the roots of his empathy.

FADEL: Now, the Biden ticket is set with Kamala Harris, his running mate. What does the Biden campaign hope to accomplish with this event?

MONTANARO: Well, I mean, politically, you know, Biden's ahead in the polls. You know, and Democratic strategists think with polarization being what it is that Biden might be at or near a ceiling. You know, he's been polling pretty consistently over the last several months at 50% or more. So the goal here at the end of the convention is to lock in those Biden supporters and appeal to new ones who might not be as fired up for Biden himself but who the campaign feels should be their voters.

Another big goal for the Biden campaign is to try to close this enthusiasm gap we're seeing for those who say they're fired up for this ticket rather than simply voting against President Trump - although that might very well be enough because those voters say they're pretty motivated. Polls, including ours, routinely say Trump and his supporters are more so voting for Trump rather than against Biden rather than, you know, Biden's folks saying that they're voting for him as opposed to against Trump.

FADEL: The lineup for speakers includes a lot of names you'd expect - the Obamas, the Clintons, Senator Elizabeth Warren. But there's a pair of speakers tomorrow night that's interesting - Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich. Sanders was asked about this on "Meet The Press" today.


CHUCK TODD: How do you feel about sharing the stage with John Kasich?

BERNIE SANDERS: Look. John will do his thing. I will do my thing. I expect they'll be different-type speeches. But we are united.

TODD: That's...

SANDERS: We are united in the understanding that Trump has to be defeated, and Biden has to be elected.

FADEL: In the few seconds we have left, what's the reaction been to Kasich getting a speaking slot?

MONTANARO: Well, that's the whole thing - you know, some progressives are upset about it, but some people are holding their nose and saying, you know what? This has got to be a big tent, and the main goal is to get rid of President Trump. And Bernie Sanders said on a different program that then the work will start for progressive causes - after Joe Biden is elected.

FADEL: Domenico Montanaro.

Thank you.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.