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The Democratic National Convention is gearing up with a roster of prominent Democrats set to deliver speeches, and others notably absent from the list.
Barack and Michelle Obama, as well as Bill and Hillary Clinton, are anticipated to be participating in the virtual event set to take place in less than two weeks, and other high-profile Democrats will be featured in limited speaking slots across the multi-day event in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. On Wednesday, it was announced that Joe Biden will not be traveling to the city to receive the party nomination in person.
But while some of Biden’s former primary rivals, and a possible vice presidential running mate, have landed a coveted speaking slot, some have roles that remain unclear, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will reportedly play some part in the virtual event, her role is not yet clear. As is the case for Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman Democrat from New York who is playing a leading role in Biden’s climate change policy, Politico reported.
Though a fellow House member had indicated that those close to the progressive and outspoken congresswoman had said she would have a primetime speaking role at the convention, as it was something she “deserves,” her spokeswoman did not give a definitive answer.
“No one close to the congresswoman said that,” Ocasio-Cortez spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said.
But a source confirmed to Politico on Friday that the New York lawmaker “will have some role” in the event after all, though it was not yet clear if that meant she will be speaking considering the time constraint challenges.
As the event went from being a four-day live gathering to a virtually televised experience due to the coronavirus pandemic, organizers have tapped prominent names in the party to engage voters and deliver a message of unity behind Biden. His former opponents, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., will be speaking as will his wife, Jill Biden.
Another former rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., will reportedly be sharing one of the nights with the dubious choice of former Republican Gov. John Kasich, a vocal critic of President Donald Trump, and himself a GOP presidential candidate in 2016.
Speeches will apparently be streamed in from different locations during the eight prime-time hours from August 17-20, Politico reported, noting that convention organizers have related that plans are still subject to change. A portion of the convention is set to focus on foreign policy and Democrats hope to fill the time with well-known military veterans and other Republicans who have national security expertise.
While there seemed to be no question about the Obamas speaking during the event, there was apparently some “chatter” about the Clintons, according to Politico.
“Some Democrats have grumbled that if Hillary Clinton earned a spot, then it’s hard to turn down other unsuccessful Democratic presidential nominees such as Al Gore and John Kerry, who is a close Biden friend,” the outlet reported. “Others have worried about showcasing Bill Clinton, who has spoken at every Democratic convention since 1980, in the #MeToo era.”
But the couple has been confirmed to speak and will do so live from the studio in their home in Chappaqua, N.Y.
“I was curious how they were going to deploy the Clintons,” David Brock, liberal activist and founder of Media Matters for America, said. “Seems an all-hands-on-deck approach, which is good because they still have a strong fan base.”
Women who have been noted as potential Biden running mates, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, and Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, will have speaking roles at the convention as will Danica Roem, a transgender woman who is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.
There was further speculation that Harris and Warren may have been ruled out from Biden’s list of running mates since they are scheduled to speak at the convention, But while Harris spokesperson Sabrina Singh said, “I have nothing to add at the moment,” other Democrats noted that it was not surprising to have potential vice presidential contenders slotted in to speak.
“Historically, we slotted everyone who was a VP contender into the program. Then you switch them out if they are picked,” someone familiar with the lineup told Politico. “How deep you go is a question. There are 10 people on the Biden list. But if they are a serious contender, they would have a spot. And my understanding is that they have already been slotted.”
Meanwhile, with the pandemic causing the event to be pushed to August from mid-July, and as Trump had announced portions of the Republican National Convention in Florida were canceled, Democrats admit that their convention will be very different from years past.
“We want to have as few elected officials as possible,” a Biden adviser said. “Every one of these politicians — they give them three minutes but then they take 15. We are trying to avoid that. There will be a lot of video and a lot of regular people.”
With no live audience cheering them on, various speakers will be delivering their speeches to silent cameras, hoping to energize voters.
“There won’t be the hoopla. There won’t be the cheering and yelling,” former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said. “But people are interested and I think they’ll listen. And because we have so many people who’ve been in the public eye this year and so many in the past, like the Obamas and the Clintons and people like that, we have a terrific lineup.”
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