Democratic National Convention 2020: Day 1

By Melissa Macaya, Kyle Blaine and Jessica Estepa, CNN

Updated 6:16 p.m. ET, August 19, 2020
19 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
8:38 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

George Floyd’s brother to speak tonight at DNC

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd, gives his opening statement during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Policing Practices and Law Enforcement Accountability at the U.S. Capitol on June 10, in Washington, DC.
Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd, gives his opening statement during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Policing Practices and Law Enforcement Accountability at the U.S. Capitol on June 10, in Washington, DC. Michael Reynolds/Pool/Getty Images

A moment of silence will be held at the virtual Democratic National Convention for George Floyd, with his brother speaking from Texas tonight in support of Joe Biden as the country continues its reckoning on racial justice and police reform.

A senior Democratic official tells CNN that Philonise Floyd will address the convention.

It is not a deeply political speech, but rather a nod to the man whose death sparked a summer of protests and demands for real acknowledgement and change to systemic racism.

8:29 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Sanders to seek to unify party to remove "most dangerous president in history"

From CNN's Arlette Saenz

Former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders makes his entrance during a campaign rally at the TCF Center on March 6 in Detroit, Michigan.
Former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders makes his entrance during a campaign rally at the TCF Center on March 6 in Detroit, Michigan. Brittany Greeson/Getty Images

Four months after he bowed out of the presidential race, Bernie Sanders speaks tonight with the goal of uniting Democrats behind Joe Biden.

Over the course of 8 minutes from Vermont, an aide to Sanders says the progressive Vermont senator will urge the country to come together to “remove the most dangerous president in history and elect Joe Biden.”

Biden and Sanders have not seen each other in person since their one-on-one primary debate in March, but the two speak regularly, the aide said, as their teams have worked closely since April on policy and efforts to unite the party. It’s a different approach for Sanders after a drawn out fight with Hillary Clinton in 2016. 

Tonight, he’s expected to rally progressives and all Democrats around Biden’s candidacy, sending a message to those who backed other candidates in the primary and voted for Trump in 2016, arguing the future of democracy and the economy is at stake and warning ”the price of failure is just too great to imagine.”

7:47 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Here's what to watch on day one of the DNC

From CNN's Eric Bradner and Gregory Krieg

In this July 25, 2016 photo, then-First Lady Michelle Obama acknowledges the crowd after delivering remarks on the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia Pennsylvania.
In this July 25, 2016 photo, then-First Lady Michelle Obama acknowledges the crowd after delivering remarks on the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Democratic National Convention kicks off this evening with a two-hour virtual event built on a theme of unity.

It will be a convention unlike any other: The coronavirus pandemic forced Democrats to scrap their planned in-person Milwaukee convention.

Instead, speakers will deliver speeches from locations across the country and without the large in-person crowds that are traditionally seen at these events. All eyes will be on how smoothly the transition to a virtual convention works.

The four-night event begins as former Vice President Joe Biden's lead is showing signs of narrowing. In a CNN poll released Sunday night, 50% of registered voters backed Biden to Trump's 46%, which is right at the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Top speakers of the night include former first lady Michelle Obama, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and a Republican — former Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Obama and Sanders are two of the most popular figures in Democratic politics. Kasich, a former presidential candidate, is emblematic of the kind of anti-Trump Republican who Biden is hoping to win over in November.

Here's what to watch starting at 9 p.m. ET Monday, on the first of four nights of the DNC:

Actress and activist Eva Longoria to kick off tonight's events: Longoria, known for her role on Desperate Housewives, will lead this evening's programming. The actress co-founded Latino Victory Fund, the first national Latino organization to endorse Joe Biden for president.

Michelle Obama's speech: Obama is one of the nation's most popular public figures — known for saying in her 2016 DNC speech, "when they go low, we go high." But her speech Monday will come at a different moment in time — one that sees Trump running for reelection amid a global pandemic and protests against racism. On an evening devoted to a message of unity, how Obama injects optimism into the anxiety Democrats have felt about Trump's tenure — and November's election — could bring Monday's most significant moment.

Bernie Sanders in the spotlight: Since he dropped out of the race in the spring, Sanders has worked to tamp down any potential insurrection against Biden from the party's left. Tonight, Sanders will be offered his largest platform since his final debate with Biden. This time, though, he will be walking a thin line — simultaneously trying to appeal to his young base on Biden's behalf, while also using the spotlight to make the case for his own policy agenda.

Read more about tonight's events here.

8:10 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Michelle Obama "doesn't hold back" tonight, adviser says

From CNN's From Jeff Zeleny

Tonight marks Michelle Obama’s fourth speech to a Democratic National Convention, but her words tonight are unlike any other.

The former first lady will deliver the sharpest and most overtly political message of her time in public life tonight, an adviser tells CNN, in an unvarnished speech where she says what she’s been thinking for four years.

She will directly challenge President Trump as “the wrong president for our country” and a leader who is “in over his head” who is unfit for office, the adviser told CNN.

“It’s very strong, tough and personal,” the adviser said. “Tonight, she doesn’t hold back.”

Since Obama last took the stage at a Democratic convention so much has changed – with the Trump presidency, but also with her. Her popularity has soared with “Becoming” and she is no longer constrained with what she can say – as she has felt since that debut speech at the Democratic convention in 2008 in Denver.

Tonight, in a speech she had a heavy role in crafting herself, she will speak to the nation as “a mom, daughter and worried American.”

She will also pick up where former President Obama left off at the John Lewis funeral by taking about the critical importance of voting. She will address racial injustice, systemic racism and police killings – but she will use all of that to urge young Americans to vote.

7:52 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Listen to an excerpt of Michelle Obama's speech tonight

Just hours before the Democratic National Convention is set to kick off, organizers published an excerpt on YouTube of former first lady Michelle Obama's speech tonight where she praises presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

"I know Joe," Obama says. "He knows what it takes to rescue an economy, beat back a pandemic and lead our country. And he listens. He will tell the truth."

The first night of the convention begins tonight at 9 p.m. ET.

Watch the full excerpt here:

7:52 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Sanders will deliver message of urgency: "The price of failure is just too great to imagine"

Then Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders delivers a campaign update at the Hotel Vermont on March 11 in Burlington, Vermont.
Then Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders delivers a campaign update at the Hotel Vermont on March 11 in Burlington, Vermont. Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders is set to be one of the major speakers tonight as the Democratic Convention begins virtually. 

In excerpts released by organizers, the former presidential candidate will call the 2020 election the "most important in the modern history of this country" and call on the country to unite to "defeat Donald Trump." 

Read more of the excerpts here:

  • "This election is the most important in the modern history of this country. In response to the unprecedented set of crises we face, we need an unprecedented response - a movement, like never before, of people who are prepared to stand up and fight for democracy and decency—and against greed, oligarchy and authoritarianism."
  • "My friends, I say to you, and to everyone who supported other candidates in this primary and to those who may have voted for Donald Trump in the last election. The future of our democracy is at stake. The future of our economy is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake. We must come together, defeat Donald Trump and elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our next president and vice president. My friends, the price of failure is just too great to imagine." 

7:52 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Read a portion of what Republican John Kasich will say tonight during the DNC 

In this Dec. 4, 2018, then Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks at The City Club of Cleveland, in Cleveland.
In this Dec. 4, 2018, then Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks at The City Club of Cleveland, in Cleveland. Tony Dejak/AP

John Kasich, the Republican former governor of Ohio, will be delivering remarks tonight at the Democratic National Convention.

According to excerpts released by organizers, Kasich will use his speech to support presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden and say his attachment to the Republican party "holds second place to my responsibility to my country."

"That’s why I’ve chosen to appear at this convention. In normal times, something like this would probably never happen, but these are not normal times," Kasich will say, according to the excerpt.

Kasich was a candidate for the GOP nomination in 2016, and has turned into a prominent voice of the party's "Never Trump" movement.

And while his selection for a speaking slot at the convention angered progressives, handing the spotlight to such a well-known Republican could help Biden's campaign strike chords of unity.

Read excerpts of his speech here:

  • “I’m a lifelong Republican, but that attachment holds second place to my responsibility to my country. That’s why I’ve chosen to appear at this convention. In normal times, something like this would probably never happen, but these are not normal times.”
  • “Yes, there are areas where Joe and I absolutely disagree. But that’s OK because that’s America. Because whatever our differences, we respect one another as human beings, each of us searching for justice and for purpose.”
  • “We can all see what’s going on in our country today and all the questions that are facing us, and no one person or party has all the answers. But what we do know is that we can do better than what we’ve been seeing today, for sure. And I know that Joe Biden, with his experience and his wisdom and his decency, can bring us together to help us find that better way.”
7:27 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

The DNC is not just for Democrats, says chairman Perez 

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Tom Perez, Democratic National Committee chairman, speaks during the Blue NC Celebration Dinner held at the Hilton Charlotte University Place on February 29 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Tom Perez, Democratic National Committee chairman, speaks during the Blue NC Celebration Dinner held at the Hilton Charlotte University Place on February 29 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

As Democrats prepare to launch their convention tonight with a speaker line-up that includes former Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said the party seeks to use the event as a platform to welcome Americans no matter their politics. 

“This is not simply a convention for Democrats," Perez said, speaking with CNN's Wolf Blitzer Monday. "This is a convention for everyone in America who wants a president who is truly inclusive, a president who will fight for everyone."

Perez went on to suggest that the need to defeat President Trump supersedes both party lines and his many policy disagreements with Kasich, who was a rival of Trump for the GOP nomination in 2016.

"I disagree with Gov. Kasich on so many issues of importance such as the right to form a union and women's reproductive health, but I agree with him wholeheartedly on the issue at hand, which is that our democracy is on fire," he said.

"This is a moment for people to put country over party," he added. "...We are indeed... a convention for everyone."

7:20 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Convention 101: CNN's Zachary B. Wolf takes your questions

From CNN's Melissa Mahtani

Hours ahead of a historic — and unconventional — Democratic National Convention, CNN's Zachary B. Wolf previewed the week ahead, fact-checked some of the misinformation around the campaign and took viewers' questions.

Watch:

Read more about why the US still has political conventions and what will happen in 2020 here.