Joe Biden nominated as Democratic challenger to Donald Trump

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Democrats have formally nominated Joe Biden as their candidate in the US presidential election.

Party elders, a new generation of politicians and voters in every state joined in an extraordinary, pandemic-cramped virtual convention to send him into the general election campaign to oust President Donald Trump.

For someone who has spent more than three decades eyeing the presidency, the moment on Tuesday night was the realisation of a long-sought goal.

But it occurred in a way that the 77-year-old could not have imagined just months ago as the coronavirus pandemic prompted profound change across the country and in his presidential campaign.

Mr Biden celebrated his new status as the Democratic nominee alongside his wife and grandchildren in a Delaware school library.

His wife of more than 40 years, Jill Biden, later spoke of her husband in deeply personal terms, reintroducing the lifelong politician as a man of deep empathy, faith and resilience to American voters less than three months before votes are counted.

“There are times when I couldn’t imagine how he did it – how he put one foot in front of the other and kept going,” she said.

“But I’ve always understood why he did it. He does it for you.”

She also pushed back against Mr Trump’s claims her husband lacks the stamina to serve as president and called a Trump campaign ad questioning his mental fitness “ridiculous”.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden with his wife Jill
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden with his wife Jill (Gerald Herbert/AP)

She said Mr Biden spends time on Zoom chats and doing fundraisers and briefings and “he doesn’t stop from nine in the morning till 11 at night”.

The convention’s most highly anticipated moments will unfold on the next two nights.

Kamala Harris will accept her nomination as Mr Biden’s running mate on Wednesday, the first black woman to join a major party ticket.

Former president Barack Obama will also speak as part of his stepped-up efforts to defeat his successor.

Mr Biden will deliver his acceptance speech on Thursday night in a mostly empty convention hall near his Delaware home.

He used the second night of the four-day convention to feature a mix of party elders, Republican as well as Democratic, to make the case that he has the experience and energy to repair chaos that Mr Trump has created at home and abroad.

Another former president, Jimmy Carter, now 95 years old, also made a brief appearance.

Some of them delivered attacks against Mr Trump that were unusually personal, all in an effort to establish Mr Biden as the competent, moral counter to the Republican president.

“Donald Trump inherited a growing economy and a more peaceful world,” Mr Kerry said.

“And like everything else he inherited, he bankrupted it. When this president goes overseas, it isn’t a goodwill mission. It’s a blooper reel.”

Mr Clinton said Mr Trump’s Oval Office is a place of chaos, not a command centre.

“If you want a president who defines the job as spending hours a day watching TV and zapping people on social media, he’s your man,” Mr Clinton said.

President Donald Trump points to supporters after speaking at Yuma International Airport in Arizona
President Donald Trump points to supporters after speaking at Yuma International Airport in Arizona (Matt York/AP)

Appearing in Arizona near the Mexican border during the day, the Republican president claimed a Biden presidency would trigger “a flood of illegal immigration like the world has never seen”.

Such divisive rhetoric, which is not supported by Mr Biden’s positions, has become a hallmark of Mr Trump’s presidency, which has inflamed tensions at home and alienated allies around the world.

Mr Biden has the support of a sprawling political coalition, as demonstrated again during Tuesday’s convention, although neither history nor enthusiasm is on his side.

Just one incumbent president has been defeated since 1992, George HW Bush.

And Mr Biden’s supporters consistently report that they are motivated more by opposition to Mr Trump than excitement about Mr Biden.

A collection of younger Democrats, including former Georgia lawmaker Stacey Abrams and New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, were given a few minutes to shine.

But overall, there was little room on Tuesday’s programme for the younger stars of the party’s far-left wing.

US presidential election 2020 opinion polls
(PA Graphics)

Mr Powell, who served as secretary of state under George W Bush and appeared at multiple Republican conventions in years past, endorsed the Democratic candidate.

He joined the wife of the late Arizona Senator John McCain, Cindy McCain, who stopped short of a formal endorsement but spoke in a video of the mutual respect and friendship her husband and Mr Biden shared.

While there have been individual members of the opposing party featured at presidential conventions before, half a dozen Republicans, including a former two-term governor of Ohio, have now spoken for Democrat Mr Biden.

It remains to be seen whether the unconventional convention will give Mr Biden the momentum he is looking for.

Preliminary estimates show that television viewership for the first night of the virtual convention was down compared with the opening of Hillary Clinton’s onsite nominating party four years ago.

An estimated 18.7 million people watched coverage between 10pm and 11pm on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC, the Nielsen company said.

Four years ago, the opening night drew just under 26 million viewers.

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