Through a series of articles we call The State, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Advocacy and Political Affairs team is providing analysis related to "the state of" various aspects of the 2020 campaign season, including the race for the White House and key elections around the country.
Cody Lyon: Before the events in primetime, there were several agriculture-centric events. First, speakers from around the country talked about rural issues and the importance of investing in rural infrastructure and economies. The driving theme was “opportunity.” Secondly, a series of elected Democratic members of Congress headlined the Leaders of American Agriculture virtual symposium.
In the evening, Democrats formally nominated Joe Biden for the presidency in a virtual roll call vote with delegates speaking from their home states and territories, a welcome change from previous conventions.
Still, the highlight of the night for me was the speech from former President Bill Clinton. I wanted to see how Clinton would fare in a virtual format when he has thrived off the convention crowds in the past. Most politicos are familiar with the history of Clinton’s convention speeches. When it comes to the ability to sharply deliver a speech, very few are any better. He is a master at anchoring the speech with a key message – in sharp contrast to Biden and Trump – and engaging through real conversation with phrases and choices that are relatable and clear. I believe he delivered once again last night.
Mike Sistak: Heading into this week, I was very curious about how the Democratic National Committee would successfully pull off the nation’s first, all-virtual convention. So far, I have been impressed with how they have done that, and they delivered again on the second night. In a normal convention setting, we would have been subjected to lengthy speeches from DC-centric politicians or a governor. The virtual setting that the Democrats have embraced has flipped the standard convention script on its head, as we saw dozens of local elected officials from around the country. Last night we met state legislators, agriculture commissioners, tribal leaders, city officials and county commissioners, all of whom touted Democratic governing success at the local level, while simultaneously praising the character and leadership of Joe Biden. Many of these local leaders were young, too.
This wouldn’t have happened in a normal convention. Seeing your local official on national TV can generate excitement compared to hearing from a senator or congressman you’ve never met. It’s likely many viewers personally know their city councilwoman or state legislator. This gives Democrats the opportunity to generate local headlines about the local speaker, potentially cornering the market on the news of the day. By featuring young elected officials, the Democrats are also making an appeal to younger voters. Finally, I view featuring local leaders touting their agendas and successes as a shrewd approach. Democrats are feeling increasingly optimistic about their chances in November, and by giving a bright spotlight to their talent outside of Washington or a governor's mansion, they’re signaling they plan to go for a nationwide sweep on Election Day – winning not just the White House and Congress, but every race on the ballot.
Randy Dwyer: For me, the second evening of speeches and rhetoric was capped by a well-rounded speech by Jill Biden about her family and husband. There is a high-level credibility and insight factor that only a spouse can give about their partner, the candidate, that no one would know otherwise. She delivered this message very well. The accompanying video made for good viewing, telling of her life – meeting Biden as a U.S. Senator after the tragic loss of his wife and daughter in a car accident, to starting a family of their own and the values Mrs. Biden holds dear. It capped an evening of partisan messaging with few political references.
This is in deep contrast to former first lady Michelle Obama’s keynote speech of the previous evening. It was different by design. Jill Biden could not have given Michelle Obama’s speech and vice versa. Polling shows few know or are enthusiastic about Joe Biden as a Presidential candidate. The hope of the convention is to reveal him in a likeable and relatable way. Jill Biden did that last night.
Cody Lyon: As we move forward to the third night of the convention with the theme “A More Perfect Union,” former President Barack Obama will speak to the viewers as well as Vice Presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris and others. I anticipate the speeches will focus on policy changes a Biden administration would undertake.
Cody Lyon is AFBF’s managing director of advocacy and political affairs.
Randy Dwyer is AFBF’s director of advocacy & grassroots development.
Michael Sistak is AFBF’s director of grassroots program development.