WASHINGTON: Michelle Obama will stress Democrat Joe Biden’s competency and character in a convention speech that will draw sharp contrasts between the Republican incumbent seeking reelection and the man who was her husband’s two-term vice president, an adviser said.
“This election is very personal for her,” Valerie Jarrett, a longtime adviser to Barack and Michelle Obama, told The Associated Press. “She’s going to take this opportunity to speak about Vice President Biden in two ways: competency, which she had a chance to observe first-hand while he served as her husband’s vice president, but also his profoundly decent character.”
Republican Donald Trump succeeded Democrat Obama in 2017 and promptly set out to undo many of Obama’s achievements on health care, the environment and foreign policy, among others. Trump also routinely criticices Obama’s job performance.
Biden’s sense of empathy will also be a focus of Michelle Obama’s speech.
Tragedy has followed Biden, from the death of his first wife and baby daughter after he was elected to the US Senate in 1972, to the death of his son, Beau Biden, from brain cancer in 2015.
Michelle Obama, who leads an effort to help register people to vote, will also speak about the importance of voting in the Nov 3 election, which will take place in the midst of a deadly coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 170,000 Americans and sickened more than 5 million others.
Her remarks will come as debate rages in Washington about US Postal Service changes that are delaying mail deliveries around the country, and vociferous denunciations by Trump – who lags behind Biden in some national and state polls – of efforts by some states to expand voting-by-mail options because of the pandemic.
“She knows the lengths that people are going through, around our country, to suppress the vote and it’s why she has poured so much of her energy into getting folks registered and educated about voting,” Jarrett said.
In keeping with the virtual nature of the convention because of the coronavirus, Michelle Obama’s remarks were recorded before Biden’s announcement last Tuesday that he had chosen California Sen. Kamala Harris to be his running mate.
But Michelle Obama wrote lengthy posts on her Facebook and Instagram accounts praising Harris, a Black woman born to Jamaican and Indian parents after she joined the Democratic ticket.
Nearly four years after leaving the White House, Michelle Obama remains hugely popular with the Democratic base, and among Black women in particular, as well as with some of those outside the party. Her speech on the convention’s opening night will be tantamount to the endorsement of Biden that some analysts and others had hoped she would make during the early primaries, when his candidacy was struggling.
Thought Michelle Obama doesn’t see herself as a political player, Jarrett said it’s important for Biden to have the former first lady’s voice on the convention’s opening night.
“There will be no doubt in your mind who she thinks makes the far better president of the United States,” Jarrett said.
The speech will be the fourth Democratic convention address by Michelle Obama, who first introduced herself to the nation during her husband’s groundbreaking campaign. She spoke again in 2012 to urge voters to give him a second term. Michelle Obama returned to the convention stage in 2016, backing former first lady Hillary Clinton over Trump, who had spent years pushing the lie that Barack Obama was not US-born and was ineligible for the presidency.
She spoke of the code her family lives by: “Our motto is, when they go low, we go high,” she said.
A key difference between those speeches and this address is that Michelle Obama is better known now than she was in 2008, Jarrett said. Millions of people in America and around the world have read her bestselling memoir, “Becoming.” “I think her hope is they will trust her, and that this isn’t about politics,” Jarrett said. “This is about the future of our country.”