WASHINGTON — It’s Kamala Harris’ big night Wednesday as the vice presidential nominee addresses the third night of the all-virtual Democratic National Convention, along with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Harris is the first woman of color nominated to the presidential ticket of a major political party and will accept the nomination to be Joe Biden’s running mate in a speech just before remarks by Obama, the first person of color to win the White House.
The two-hour program, whose theme “A More Perfect Union” will focus on efforts to make the American promise a reality for everyone, will be emceed by actress Kerry Washington and feature performances by singers Billie Eilish and Jennifer Hudson, as well as speeches by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Rep. Gabby Giffords, who became a gun control activist after she was shot in 2011.
Here’s what to watch:
1. Kamala Harris
Harris is no stranger to the Democratic faithful after her high-profile presidential bid, but she’ll have a chance to reintroduce herself to a wider audience and in a different light after her own primary campaign fizzled last year.
Throughout her career, Harris leaned heavily on her personal story as the daughter of immigrants and background as a prosecutor, from which she drew her slogan “for the people.”
Vice presidential candidates traditionally play the role of attack dog so the person at the top of the ticket can keep their hands a bit cleaner, and Harris is fond of, as she says, prosecuting the case against President Donald Trump.
2. Hillary Clinton
No one knows what it’s like to run against Trump better than the former first lady, who will make a return to a Democratic convention that looks very different from the one four years ago when she accepted the her party’s nomination.
Not only has the convention gone entirely online due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the party has moved on from the Clintons as some Democrats blamed her, at least in part, for the 2016 election loss.
Clinton has hardly gone quiet since her loss, writing a book and giving numerous interviews. And she’s still a frequent target of Republican attack ads and is often mentioned, regardless of the context, by Trump himself, so she might delight in the chance to get under his skin while touting the potential for Harris to put more cracks in “the hardest, highest glass ceiling” of electing a woman president.
3. Elizabeth Warren
During her own presidential run last year, Warren dreamed of doing big things with the levers of power and prided herself on having detailed plans of how to do them. Biden, too, says the next president will have to take sweeping action to respond to COVID-19 and the economic collapse, but he’s been gauzier about how he’d get there, sticking to a belief that bipartisan compromise and his relationship with Republican lawmakers will see him through.
Warren is almost always a team player compared with some on the left, so she’s unlikely to apply too much pressure on Biden, at least publicly, but is very interested in shaping his administration — and potentially even serving in a position such as Treasury Secretary after being passed up for the vice-presidential slot.
Only Bernie Sanders stayed in the primary contest longer and endorsed Biden later than Warren, so Democrats are hoping she will do what she can to get her supporters to be as enthusiastic as possible about the former VP.
4. Barack Obama
His wife, Michelle, was the star of the first night of the convention Monday and the former president himself will likely be the star of night three, even if Harris has main billing. Unique among living presidents, Obama remains overwhelmingly popular within his own party and relatively well-liked by Americans for a partisan political figure.
Since leaving office, Obama has been very careful about when and how he weighs in on political matters and some Democrats have grumbled that he has not done more during the Trump era. But his speech supporting Clinton, his former secretary of state, was a highlight of the 2016 convention and now he gets to boost the man he handpicked to be his no. 2 in 2008.
Obama notably did not endorse Biden during the Democratic primary, which Biden has always said was intentional because he wanted to earn the nomination himself. But Obama was said to have favored Clinton over Biden in 2016 and reportedly doubted Biden’s ability to win in 2020 as well.
The fact that both of Democrats’ last two presidential nominees came out of the Obama administration shows the lingering glow that era has for liberals. And if Biden wins, it will help secure Obama’s legacy for history, so he will likely become a more familiar presence on the (virtual) campaign trail soon.
5. Surprise guests?
The last two nights of the convention have featured surprise appearances by Republicans who are supporting Biden over Trump. And the convention has not yet come close to exhausting the ever-growing list of disenchanted members of the GOP, so it’s possible more are yet to show up.
On Monday night, it was a slate of Republican former officeholders and candidates. On Tuesday, it was former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Cindy McCain, the widow of the late Sen. John McCain. But there are dozens of former senators, congressmen and onetime GOP administration officials who have been vocal about their opposition to Trump and likely more who have kept quiet who could still make an appearance.