ATLANTA – Joe Biden’s presidential nominating convention will highlight the U.S. political spectrum from the left flank of New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to the Republican old guard of former Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
But that doesn’t mean there’s room for every prominent Democrat who would get a share of the spotlight at what would have been a traditional convention in Milwaukee before the COVID-19 pandemic made that impossible. Instead, Biden’s campaign and other convention planners are continuing negotiations with various power players over how to produce a truncated virtual convention with just eight hours of programming over four nights from Aug. 17-20.
Still unsettled, according to convention organizers, is who gets to speak live and who must be taped. The virtual production is slated for 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. EDT each night, leaving Biden and his aides an unusually narrow window to satisfy a range of egos within the party while trying to project a cohesive message to voters ahead of his general election campaign against President Donald Trump.
Time slots became even more finite Monday when the Democratic National Committee confirmed the inclusion of rank-and-file voters from around the country. They range from a Pennsylvania farmer who voted for Trump in 2016 to a pastor from Reno, Nevada, a public transit bus driver from Atlanta and a union auto worker from Michigan.
Those voters will join several party luminaries: former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton and former first lady Michelle Obama. All will speak separately, according to Democrats with knowledge of the schedule. At least three of Biden’s former 2020 primary rivals will be featured: California Sen. Kamala Harris, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
But that leaves only so much time for the rest of the party bench — other failed 2020 candidates, sitting governors, congressional leaders -– who at a normal convention would at least be guaranteed to take the stage during each night's early prime time hours.
“We had two goals in mind: to include more Americans than ever before, and to ensure that all Americans see themselves reflected in what they were viewing,” said Stephanie Cutter, a veteran Democratic strategist who is directing the program lineup for Biden.
A spot could open later this week should Biden tap Harris or Warren as his running mate. The vice-presidential nominee is slated to speak Wednesday night.