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: The final night of a first-ever virtual political convention ended with Joe Biden accepting the Democratic nomination for President in a speech that focused on the response to the Coronavirus and its resulting impacts. It’s clear that the campaign believes the election will center on the coronavirus response and how a Biden presidency will correct the course of the virus, helping ease the economic devastation and death it has caused.
The speech, as is typical of nominee speeches, was a contrast between visions, offering direction for what the next four years will hold and a guide on how to achieve it. As expected, the speech was long on themes and short on policy specifics. Still, Biden certainly met the standard of a candidate for President with his plan of leading the nation through the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.
Instead of a convention center with cheering supporters and balloons, Biden’s virtually delivered speech needed to reflect the reverence and solemnity of the moment, but also deliver the hope of better days. In this sense, I believe he was on point.
Mike Sistak: In my view, the final night of the convention achieved three things – making the final pitch for the decency of Biden, presenting a united Democratic Party and transitioning to a General Election message that makes a grab for the middle electorate. First, while most campaigns rely on the candidate’s family to humanize them (which we saw plenty of this week), the most powerful message came from someone who isn’t even old enough to vote. A young man by the name of Brayden talked about his stutter, and how Joe Biden, a stutterer himself, personally helped Brayden take steps to overcome this challenge. This message was the perfect coda to Biden wanting the country to know that he will be a president with a deep well of empathy and understanding in a time when many Americans feel the country is short on it.
Second, we saw a video clip of several of Biden’s former competitors in the primary talking about their personal relationship with him and why they support him. Usually a national convention features the also-rans, but they’re always using a speaking slot to press their agenda, finishing with a quick praise for the nominee. But this video, showing his onetime rivals laughing and enjoying their time speaking about Biden, emphasized just how much Democratic Party leaders are singularly focused in their mission to unseat President Trump. It could go a long way toward keeping the various factions of the party united through Election Day, despite policy differences.
Finally, Biden has long been thought of as the kind of candidate who could appeal to a broad American electorate. He seized on that theme within the first few minutes of his acceptance speech. He emphasized that, “while I will be a Democratic candidate, I will be an American president. I will work as hard for those who didn't support me as I will for those who did. That's the job of a president. To represent all of us, not just our base or our party. This is not a partisan moment. This must be an American moment.” This was a strong signal to Obama-Trump voters, independents and disaffected Republicans that he intends to earn their votes and presents a stark contrast to an incumbent president who vehemently attacks his detractors.
Randy Dwyer: On the final night, Biden accepted the nomination and showed himself to be what the previous three nights and multitude of speakers said he is – a decent man with values. With TV viewership down – approximately 25% for the first evening compared to the 2016 convention – it’s now time for the Biden-Harris team to take their message on the road and keep their momentum moving forward. Their polling numbers remain favorable and they’ll be careful not to misstep. While the COVID bunker strategy worked extremely well up to this point, the convention creates a sprint to the finish line. This sprint may not be a straight line. With four debates ahead -- three presidential and one vice presidential -- the voters will be watching. Superior performances by either candidate could spell the difference on Election Day.
Cody Lyon: The virtual convention showcased the broad diversity of the Democratic Party and the enthusiasm to elect Biden. Still, there is obviously an uneasy truce between the Democratic Party’s progressives and centrists. The differences between the two factions (and subgroups) will not be resolved after this convention, nor by Election Day.
Between now and then – the political lifetime of 74 days – the focus is on electing Biden. We will watch and see whether Democrats have made a successful case to the country that he deserves to be elected President of the United States.
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.