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Dem convention: Wednesday focus will be on Harris, women voters

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden's

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden's running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. in Wilmington, Del. on Aug. 14, 2020. Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster

The spotlight will be on Kamala Harris when the Democrats open the third night of their convention Wednesday, but she’ll be part of a program that focuses on women and touts a political party that’s become broader than its rival.

Harris, the California senator, will give her first speech as the party’s nominee for vice president. Other key speeches will be delivered by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Former President Barack Obama also is expected to deliver a powerful address to revive the “Obama coalition” that drove his victories in 2008 and 2012.

The Democratic National Convention has dubbed its Wednesday theme “A More Perfect Union.” It’s expected to play up the party’s growing strength with women voters and show that it is more inclusive than the Republican Party.

“They are trying to showcase the fact that they have really diversified as a party in a pretty dramatic way in the past two decades. It’s just not the party it was in the 1980s ... even [in the '90s] when Bill Clinton was president,” said Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University professor and historian who analyzes national politics.

“It will be a stark contrast with Republicans — not only in their leadership but [also] their electorate. It will show a Democratic Party that has changed and now reflects a population that is like the rest of the country,” Zelizer said. “They will be sending a not-so-subtle message.”

Each night of the Democratic convention will be emceed by ran actress; Wednesday, it’s Kerry Washington. Speakers will be squeezed into a tight — by national convention standards — two-hour program that will included taped segments. The televised portion runs from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. each night.

The so-called convention bump — a temporary boost in the polls for a candidate following the convention — has largely disappeared over the last generation, said Marist College pollster Lee Miringoff.

“The last big one was Bill Clinton in ’92 — and that was 28 years ago,” Miringoff said. That underscores the idea that political conventions have become less about converting undecided voters and more about firing up supporters to drum up turnout in a candidate’s key demographic groups.

So Democrats’ focus on women makes sense, Miringoff said.

In Marist’s latest national survey, he said, Biden leads Trump by 24 percentage points among female voters. Among suburban women, Biden’s lead is even greater: 42 percentage points.

“The convention has become a reinforcing event rather than a persuading event,” Miringoff said. “Part of their goal Wednesday will be to introduce Kamala Harris to a national audience and another part will be to rally the party faithful — and women are a huge part of that for the Democrats.”

“With Biden at the top of the ticket, they want to show that though the party went with a safe choice at the top, the rest of the party is not a defense for nostalgia,” Zelizer said.

In her first interview after being selected by Biden as a running mate, Harris told “The 19th” news site — the name refers to the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote — her campaign message will be focused on addressing inequities based on race and gender.

“In a Biden-Harris administration, women are going to be a priority, understanding that women have many priorities and all of them must be acknowledged,” Harris told the outlet.

But Harris, Warren and Pelosi won’t be the only attraction. Obama on Wednesday is expected to deliver a “powerful speech” to make the case for Biden and tie together all the supporters of the Democratic Party, said Susan Del Percio, a Republican strategist.

“President Obama is going to bring a lot of life to this party,” Del Percio said. “He is going to bring it and make the case against Donald Trump and rally, to help Joe Biden, the Obama coalition. If anyone can make the case, he will.”

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