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Game on: It's Biden-Harris vs. Trump-Pence

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris after a Democratic

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris after a Democratic presidential primary debate in September 2019. Credit: AP / David J. Phillip

A bold bet — and a safe one?

For Joe Biden, choosing Kamala Harris as his running mate meant making history — she'll be the first woman of color on a major-party presidential ticket. President Donald Trump saw it as a chance to recycle a line he used four years ago against Hillary Clinton — he called Harris a "nasty" woman.

The California senator was a sharp-elbowed rival to Biden early in the primary debates, challenging his record on issues of race such as school integration in the 1970s. Those are bygones now as Biden looks to generate enthusiasm from Black voters whose turnout will be vital in his bid to beat Trump.

In the aftermath of George Floyd's death, Biden — already committed to a woman for vice president — came under increasing pressure to pick a Black woman. But Harris also was seen as one of the safest options in the broader field of about a dozen contenders, more flexible on policy than some party progressives (a factor that cost her their support in the primaries) and with an established national profile.

"I need someone working alongside me who is smart, tough and ready to lead. Kamala is that person," Biden announced Tuesday in a statement. Said Harris on Twitter: "Joe Biden can unify the American people because he’s spent his life fighting for us." They will appear together for the first time as the Democratic Party's ticket on Wednesday near Biden's home in Wilmington, Delaware.

Harris is a daughter of Black and South Asian immigrants, a father from Jamaica and a mother from India. A 55-year-old first-term senator who gained prominence as a tough interrogator in committee hearings, she made her reputation as a career prosecutor, having served as San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general.

Top party leaders, including 2016 nominee Clinton and former President Barack Obama, publicly rallied around the new Biden-Harris ticket, The Washington Post noted. Biden's decision "underscored his own judgment and character," Obama said in a statement with an apparent dig at Trump. "Reality shows us that these attributes are not optional in a president.”

The New York Times assessed Harris as bringing to the race a far more vigorous campaign style than Biden’s, including a gift for capturing moments of raw electricity on the political stage. Click here for Politico's snapshot profile of Harris' bio.

Trump: She's a meanie

The Trump campaign quickly went on the attack against Harris, but not with consistency in the messaging. In a campaign-organized conference call with reporters, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) suggested Harris was soft on crime. Trump 2020 spokeswoman Katrina Pierson suggested almost simultaneously that Harris was chosen "to appease the anti-police extremists controlling the Democrat[ic] Party," but alleged that as California attorney general, she was overly tough and "going after the wrong people."

Pierson also was asked about Trump's $6,000 in contributions to Harris' AG campaigns in 2011 and 2013, back when Trump was a donor to pols from both parties. Pierson replied that he was a private businessman at the time and that it proves Trump isn't a racist.

During a White House briefing after Biden's announcement, Trump went on the attack, saying he was especially incensed over how Harris questioned Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings.

"I thought she was the meanest, the most horrible, most disrespectful of anybody in the U.S. Senate," Trump said. “She was nasty to a level that was just a horrible thing, the way she was,” Trump said. “I won’t forget that soon.”

To the aid of their party

The speakers lined up for the virtual Democratic National Convention starting next Monday include the party's old guard and new faces, spanning a spectrum from the progressive left, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx/Queens), to anti-Trump Republican defector John Kasich, the former Ohio governor.

Michelle Obama will keynote the convention on Monday, Jill Biden on Tuesday, Barack Obama on Wednesday. Running mate Harris will address the convention on Wednesday, and Biden's nomination acceptance speech comes on Thursday, the final day. Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton will appear on successive nights. 

Programming is set to be broadcast and streamed online each night from 9 to 11. It won't all be live. The New York Times reported that Michelle Obama's address was being filmed this week at her family’s vacation house on Martha’s Vineyard, in part so there will be no worry about technological glitches from the remote venue.

Janison: Expect the unconventional

The coronavirus-era national party conventions will look like none that came before them, though at least the parties won't try to emulate Major League Baseball by placing cardboard delegates in the seats, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.

The basic purpose of the convention, to nominate a national ticket and adopt platforms, should remain intact. They've been scripted for television audiences for a long time, the productions and speeches ceremonial — different from the days in the last century of suspense, multiple ballots and arm-twisting.

The intensity and face-to-face confrontations, state delegation breakfasts, guest meet-and-greets and lobbying on all kinds of issues will be lost. People can scream at each other and then make up over the phone or by Zoom, no doubt. The speeches will have applause lines, but there won't be any live applause.

For his part, Trump can only look back wistfully on the angry "lock her up" chants encouraged by former aide Michael Flynn at the 2016 Republican convention. The president won't have the supportive crowds he craves and this time, Trump and the GOP have everything to lose.

As for the fall debates, they could be widely watched again for World Wrestling Entertainment-like value. But there will be none of the usual hooting audiences, lectured by moderators to pipe down.

College grid lockdown

On Tuesday morning, Trump was still trying to send in the play. Talking to Fox Sports Radio on why it would be a "tragic mistake" to cancel the fall college football season for the coronavirus pandemic, he said, "these football players, they’re very young, strong people, and physically, I mean they’re physically in extraordinary shape, so they’re not going to have a problem … You're not going to see people dying."

Trump's confidence in his medical opinion failed to sway the Big Ten and Pac-12. The two powerhouse conferences each voted Tuesday to postpone college football and all other fall sports seasons, holding open the possibility of resuming games in the spring of 2021. Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said it is "abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall."

The NCAA's Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeast Conference and Big 12 — the three other "Power Five" leagues — have yet to declare how they plan to proceed. The SEC, college football's premier top-to-bottom conference, is reportedly actively recruiting other schools to join the league in an effort to proceed with the season. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves described college football — even amid the pandemic — as “essential."

Benefits still a work in progress

If it seems like administration officials are making it up as they go along to carry out the president's executive order for enhanced unemployment benefits to cushion pandemic job losses, it's because they are. Trump’s senior aides acknowledged on Tuesday that they are providing less financial assistance for the unemployed than the president initially advertised and are looking for new options, The Washington Post reported.

As originally described, states had to kick in $100 of the additional $400 payments. Then the administration said states could pull the money from federal coronavirus relief funds appropriated earlier in the crisis, CBS News reports. But some states have already fully committed that money for other needs.

If there are checks, when will they arrive? "Within the next week or two, most of the states will be able to execute," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday. States must make changes to their unemployment insurance systems, which takes time.

It's no sure thing that the self-employed will be eligible, CNBC explains. Trump’s order said individuals collecting less than $100 a week in unemployment benefits won’t be eligible for the additional aid.

Tax experts told Roll Call that millions of self-employed individuals would be left out of Trump’s move to defer payroll taxes for the last four months of the year.

More coronavirus news

See a roundup of the latest pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond by Newsday's Bart Jones and Matthew Chayes. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.

What else is happening:

  • Trump, who often compares himself to Abraham Lincoln, took his measure against another of the Mount Rushmore presidents. "George Washington would have had a hard time beating me before the plague came in," he told conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday.
  • Entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who gained a small but enthusiastic following during the Democratic primaries, is openly chagrined at getting left off the list of convention speakers. "I've got to be honest," Yang tweeted on Tuesday, "I kind of expected to speak." 
  • A full panel of U.S. appeals court judges in Washington on Tuesday signaled reluctance to compel a federal judge to immediately drop the criminal case against Michael Flynn. The Justice Department is trying to toss the case despite Flynn twice pleading guilty to lying to the FBI.
  • Actress Maya Rudolph, who portrayed Harris on "Saturday Night Live" last season, told Entertainment Weekly she is eager to return and reprise the role.
  • The last woman to run for vice president, Republican Sarah Palin, offered friendly advice via Instagram to Harris, based on her 2008 experience as John McCain's running mate. "Trust no one new" and "Don’t get muzzled — connect with media and voters in your own unique way … remember YOU were chosen for who YOU are."
  • A Marquette Law School poll shows Biden up by 5 points in Wisconsin, a key to Trump's 2016 victory. It also found a huge partisan divide on mail-in voting. Statewide, those who said they plan to vote in person on Election Day favored Trump 67% to 26%. Those who planned to cast ballots by mail chose Biden by 81% to 14%. Biden had a smaller edge, 50% to 45%, among those planning early in-person voting.

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