After a star-studded night three, the final night of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) Thursday will feature party nominee Joe Biden’s acceptance speech — the most consequential moment of his year-and-a-half-long campaign for president so far and likely the largest platform he will get to make his case directly to voters without sharing a debate stage with President Trump.
No matter the awkwardness of the remote-convention format, no matter the strained relations between the party establishment and its more progressive faction simmering just below the surface, no matter the “#MeToo” tension that surrounded former President Bill Clinton’s appearance or the lukewarm reception of vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris’ speech, the DNC will be considered a wild success if Biden delivers a barnburner.
Biden has the opportunity Thursday to show voters firsthand that the Trump campaign attacks on his mental acuity are unfounded, make the case himself why voters should cross ideological divides to vote for him on character and to lay out his vision for America to excite the base. If his speech flops, however, it will surely be included in yet more Trump campaign ads depicting a slow and unexciting Biden as a mere puppet for the party’s progressives. And he won’t have an opportunity to make up for it on a similar platform, making the debates, which start late next month, even more critical for Biden.
Here’s what to watch for Thursday at the Democratic National Convention.
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The DNC rolled out the big guns on Wednesday night, clearing the stage for Biden to be the star of the show Thursday. A smattering of his lower-profile former primary rivals and others will open for Biden, along with a couple of state secretaries of state to address the hot topic of mail-in voting. But make no mistake — what really matters Thursday is Biden.
Thursday’s speaker lineup: Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson; Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms; Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.; Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.; former presidential candidate Andrew Yang; former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
This list is likely incomplete as the party has added additional speakers each night of the convention so far, announced just hours before the start of the programming.
Each night of the DNC features a theme, and Thursday’s is “America’s Promise.” According to the DNC, that theme will highlight Biden’s long career as a public servant, starting as a public defender and ascending all the way to vice president over a five-decade career.
“Every step of the way, he has risen to the moment with steady and effective leadership. Being president doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are,” the DNC said of the Thursday theme.
“Joe Biden is a man of character and decency, and of empathy and compassion who believes in America’s promise,” it continues. “On the final night of the convention, we will hear from those who can speak to Joe Biden’s leadership and character. Joe Biden will speak about his vision for uniting America to move us forward out of constant chaos and crisis, and for delivering on that promise for all.”
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Through the first three nights of the convention, the hip-hop podcast “Behind the Rhyme” held a pre-show starting at 8 p.m. which is streamed on Twitch. They will again hold their show, which will turn into a simulcast of the convention then include a post-convention panel.
Two other pre-shows will be joining the ranks on Thursday — one by “Pod Save America,” a podcast hosted by former Obama staffers, and another by the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) called “#DemGovsGetItDone: Progress in Purple & Red States.” The DGA broadcast will run from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. while the other two shows start at 8 p.m. before the official convention programming begins at 9 p.m.
The Chicks, the band that recently changed its name from “The Dixie Chicks” to be more inclusive, will perform on Thursday night, as well as singer-songwriter John Legend and rapper Common, who will collaborate in a joint performance.
The DNC announced an afterparty to be broadcast 11 p.m. Thursday across a number of its digital platforms that will “be dropping into the homes of A-list celebrities and activists across the country for several segments” and also include a “never-before seen set” by DJ Diplo.
The show will be hosted by Andy Cohen, and feature Alyssa Milano, Jason George and others.
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As with the first three days of the convention, the DNC will host a number of caucus and council meetings streamed for party activists to discuss the major issues facing America, including an LGBTQ Caucus Meeting, a Small Business Council Meeting and a Native American Caucus Meeting.
The meetings have been a source of controversy on at least two occasions already this week, however.
At one meeting, an activist contradicted the party’s official stance that police should not be defunded, and called for the full abolition of police.
“Why can’t folks imagine a world without the cops? Why can’t folks imagine a world without prisons? Why can’t people expand their imaginations to include community care, to include an abolitionist future,” one activist said at an LGBTQ Caucus Meeting. “I’m talking about like for real, for real abolition, not just watered-down DNC version of abolition. We’re talking about abolishing police, we’re talking about abolishing [Immigration Customs and Enforcement], we’re talking about abolishing prisons.”
In another event, former Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour, who has been accused of anti-Semitism, appeared at the Muslim Delegates & Allies Assembly. That prompted a disavowal by Biden spokesman Andrew Bates, who said “Joe Biden has been a strong supporter of Israel and a vehement opponent of anti-Semitism his entire life, and he obviously condemns her views and opposes BDS, as does the Democratic platform.”
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Bates continued: “She has no role in the Biden campaign whatsoever.”‘
A Democratic official also told CNN’s Jake Tapper that the meeting was not run by the DNC or the campaign, despite the meeting being promoted by the DNC and streamed on its official platforms.
The Trump campaign responded: “Anti-Semite Linda Sarsour, who supports the Israel-hating BDS movement which boycotts Jewish-owned businesses, says the Democrat Party “is absolutely our party.” Her extreme bigotry is welcomed by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”
Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.