Biden claims the Democratic nomination

Evan Halper and Mark Z. Barabak
Los Angeles Times (TNS)
In a screenshot from the livestream of the Democratic National Convention, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden together give a thank you speech with supporters during the virtual convention on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020.

MILWAUKEE - Joe Biden captured the prize Tuesday that he has chased for more than 30 years, as Democrats nominated him for president with ringing endorsements and a roll call vote that virtually touched down in every state and territory.

The fast-paced balloting, forced online with the rest of the proceedings by the coronavirus, spiced up a normally prolonged floor vote as the former U.S. senator and vice president was digitally anointed to take on President Donald Trump in November and lead his party into the future.

Biden, his wife, Jill, and several of their grandchildren appeared on screen immediately after the vote, while supporters cheered remotely and the song "Celebration" boomed in the background.

"It means the world to me and my family, and I'll see you Thursday," said a beaming Biden, who will deliver his acceptance speech on the convention's fourth and final night. "Thank you, thank you, thank you," Biden said.

Tuesday's gathering brought together some of the party's elders - including former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, among others - but also gave a brief platform to firebrand progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

In keeping with the night's scripted theme of unity, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who served in three Republican administrations, joined other GOP defectors and national security heavyweights in endorsing Biden.

The Biden campaign hopes they will help persuade wavering Trump supporters to vote Democratic in an election that increasingly appears a referendum on the president's management of the coronavirus crisis.

Speakers stressed a theme of leadership, showcasing Biden's nearly five decades in public service and arguing he is a steady hand who can restore competence to the White House and comity in national politics.

"What a difference it will make to have a president who unites us," Powell said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont enjoyed a last burst of attention on Tuesday night when his name was placed in nomination by Ocasio-Cortez. He garnered hundreds of delegates, but Biden's victory was never in doubt.

Neither party has held a brokered convention, in which delegates pick a nominee only after multiple rounds of voting, in nearly 70 years. The digital roll call was even more suspense-free than usual.

Normally, it is one of the most iconic convention moments, a chance for delegates to not just express their choice for president but good-naturedly brag on their home states before ending in a wild celebration.

Representatives of the 50 states and seven U.S. territories were tethered remotely in what Democrats billed - putting the best gloss on - as the "Roll Call Across America."

Though brisk, the tally of states offered a panoramic tour of the country and its kaleidoscopic landscape, from the cactus-dotted desert of Arizona to the red rocks of Colorado, the sandy shores of Hawaii to the vast open plains of the Midwest.

One tradition held. Delaware passed on its initial turn in the alphabetical order, leaving the vote to circle back and allow Biden's home state to cast the final votes that officially put him over the top.

Powell, a retired Army general who once weighed his own bid for the White House, said Biden would be a president "we will all be proud to salute."

Other longtime national security experts also touted Biden's leadership, several of them warning that the international chaos and cozy relations with dictators Trump has invited are putting the nation at risk.

Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general who refused to carry out Trump's Muslim ban, said the president "treats our country like it's his family business, this time bankrupting our nation's moral authority at home and abroad."

Jill Biden delivered the closing speech in a moving tribute to her husband of 43 years. She mixed the personal and political as she assumed the traditional role of vouching for her political spouse, sharing family moments of joy and sorrow that, she said, have tempered her husband and groomed him for this country's perilous moment.

Turning to the country's economic and medical crises, she said, "The burdens we carry are heavy. And we need someone with strong shoulders.

"I know that if we entrust this nation to Joe, he will do for your family what he did for ours," she continued. "Bring us together and make us whole. Carry us forward in our time of need. Keep the promise of America for all of us."

Democrats made the case that those searing losses instilled in Biden an empathy that makes him uniquely suited to guide the nation out of the pandemic that has killed more than 170,000 Americans this year and put parts of the economy on life support.

Carter extolled Biden's "experience, character and decency," and Clinton explained how the Oval Office would function if voters chose Biden over Trump.

"Our party is offering you a very different choice: a go-to-work president," Clinton said from his home in a New York City suburb. "A down-to-earth, get-the-job-done guy. A man with a mission: to take responsibility, not shift the blame."

In another break with tradition - this one of Biden's design - no one person was given the honor of delivering the convention's keynote address. Rather, the assignment was tasked to a multi-ethnic, multi-generational round robin of 17 speakers.

The taped montage kicked off the night, bouncing from one speaker to another for many rounds, and at times featuring several on the screen in unison.

While showcasing the diversity of the party, the move also removed the risk of someone younger and more dynamic making the 77-year-old Biden seem stale and tired by comparison.