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Get ready for the unconventional at Biden's convention

Security fencing is installed outside the Wisconsin Center

Security fencing is installed outside the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee on Sunday, on the eve of the mostly virtual Democratic National Convention. Credit: Getty Images / Scott Olson

A virtual road to victory?

In a normal presidential election year, it would be common for a candidate to get a bump in polls and enthusiasm from the party's nominating convention.

Can that happen in these coronavirus times with no live crowds to go wild at the applause lines? The Democrats will give it a shot this week for Joe Biden, as will the Republicans next week for President Donald Trump.

In four days of warming up the stage and the national audience for Biden and running mate Kamala Harris, the Democrats will hope they have done a deft enough job lining up hundreds of live video feeds from living rooms, national monuments and stages around the country to create the feel of a celebration, writes The Washington Post. Delegates will be dialed in to quick feeds of the live speeches, so their real-time reactions from their homes can be broadcast to the country, as if they were in the same room as the speakers.

If Biden can't count on a bounce, he's at least starting off with a cushion, according to most recent polls. New surveys Sunday from CBS News/YouGov and NBC News/The Wall Street Journal showed the Democrat ahead of Trump by 10 points and 9 points, respectively. Combined results from 11 battleground stages in the NBC/Journal survey show Biden with a 7-point lead. The CBS poll and another by ABC News and The Washington Post show strong approval of Biden's choice of Harris as his running mate. The overall race looked tighter in a CNN poll Sunday night, with Trump only 4 points behind.

The star of the Democrats' program on Monday will be former first lady Michelle Obama. Featured speakers include Biden's leading ex-rival in the 2020 primaries, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and a Republican who rejected Trump, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The two voices from opposite ends of the political spectrum illustrate how Democrats are looking to widen Biden’s base of support, writes Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez. Other competitors from the Democratic primaries are on the program: Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg.

One aspect of a convention without an arena may provide an advantage. Four years ago, Democrats grappled with competing split screens — inside the convention hall in Philadelphia, Hillary Clinton supporters reveled in her nomination; outside the arena, die-hard Sanders supporters staged protests opposing her candidacy, Figueroa notes. 

Making the Sunday talk show rounds, Sanders said, "A lot of my supporters are not enthusiastic about Joe Biden. You know why? I ran against Joe Biden." He went on: "But I think there is overwhelming understanding that Donald Trump must be defeated." See Scott Eidler's story for Newsday. Click here for a schedule of convention events.

NY Dems take remote view

New York State Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs said forgoing a live convention was necessary, but it wouldn't be as good.

“You do miss a lot by not having a traditional convention,” Jacobs, who also is the Nassau County Democratic chairman, told Newsday's Yancey Roy. “The DNC is doing the best they can under the circumstances. But let’s not kid ourselves: It’s not going to be the razzmatazz and excitement of the usual kickoff of a campaign.”

In contrast, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) looks at it this way: Most people experience conventions through television, and this year's event will be much the same. The “only downside” of the virtual convention is that viewers won’t see the enthusiastic state delegations casting their votes, he said.

State Sen. Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown) will be participating virtually, through his computer and leading off conference calls on Zoom to promote Biden-Harris “watch parties,” among other things. As for actually casting his vote for Democratic nominee Biden, Thomas, like most convention delegates, already has done so electronically.

First night: Cuomo on Trump, COVID

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a speaker on the first night of the Democratic convention, is expected to draw a sharp contrast Monday between how he and Trump have handled the coronavirus pandemic, reports Newsday's Tom Brune.

Cuomo will be joined by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in laying out a major Democratic line of attack on Trump. “They are the voice of the alternative direction that Donald Trump could have taken,” said Lawrence Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota.

New York's share of the nation's coronavirus cases dropped to 8% in mid-August, from 40% in March. 

Janison: Daily doses of disinformation

Trump has been building up his political defenses with a weapon that can best be called the micro-hoax, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. It comes in the form of "some people say." It doesn't have the preparation, counterfeit documentation or planning of a full-blown, original hoax.

Last week, Trump aired the false idea that Harris, though a U.S.-born citizen, is ineligible for vice president because her parents were immigrants. "I have no idea if that's right," Trump said. But why not spread it around anyway?

As he promotes hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment, Trump and his supporters suggest it's his political enemies — not medical experts — who have discredited the idea. He fights critical funding for the U.S. Postal Service with the false assertion that voting by mail is inherently fraudulent. This echoes his counterfeit assertion that widespread voter fraud cost him the popular vote in 2016.

Is Trump scaring off mail voters?

Trump’s unprecedented attacks on the Postal Service, which come during widespread mail delays amid increased demand and cost-reducing operational changes, across the country are shaking voters’ faith that their ballots will be counted, The Washington Post reports.

Thousands of voters have called government offices in recent days to ask whether it is safe to depend on the USPS to deliver their ballots, according to officials across the country. It could mean weighing the coronavirus risk against the risk of getting shut out of the election.

“I was planning on doing it though the post office,” Kamilla Gilfedder, 36, of Lexington, Kentucky, told the Post. She plans to vote for Biden. “It was primarily just to avoid COVID. I’ve got a toddler and my family is high-risk. But when I think about it, I just want to make sure that my vote is registered. So I think I’m going to go in.”

Attorneys general from at least six states are discussing possible lawsuits against the administration to block it from reducing mail service between now and the election. State leaders are scrambling to see whether they can change rules to give voters more options, and Democrats are planning a massive public education campaign to shore up trust in the vote and the Postal Service, the Post wrote.

He's got proof negative

Trump has been insisting without evidence that mail voting will cause massive fraud. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was challenged Sunday on that point on CNN's "State of the Union" by host Jake Tapper, who said, "But there's no evidence of widespread voter fraud."

Meadows replied, "There's no evidence that there's not either. That’s the definition of fraud, Jake.” Huh? Not being able to prove a negative is no clincher for any argument. (By the same alternative logic, it could be said that Trump's campaign secretly is being advised by Bigfoot. Who needs proof that it isn't?)

Meadows said on CNN that Trump was open to signing off on more aid for the Postal Service, contrary to the president's remarks last week acknowledging that without that funding, he can stop mail-in voting. But for Trump to relent, Meadows said, Democrats should support the Republicans' version of a fifth coronavirus stimulus package. See more from Newsday's Eidler and Jesse Coburn.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Democrats on Sunday evening that the House will be called back from August recess — likely on Saturday, Axios is told — to act to "save the Postal Service" and vote on legislation to stop service cuts. The Democratic leadership also demanded that Postal Service leaders, including Trump-allied Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, testify on mail delays at an emergency oversight hearing Aug. 24 as concerns grow that the Trump White House is trying to undermine the agency.

Trump defended DeJoy at a news conference Saturday, saying, "He wants to make the Post Office great again."

More coronavirus news

See a roundup of the latest pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond by Vera Chinese and Lisa L. Colangelo. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.

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