Dem convention, night one: Bernie, Whitmer, Michelle Obama -- and Kasichmania

Dem convention, night one: Bernie, Whitmer, Michelle Obama -- and Kasichmania

Remember when there used to be like five hours of programming on each night of a convention, with the Z-listers speaking mid-afternoon, then the Y-listers, and on up until the A-listers arrived in primetime? Not this year. Pandemic America gets just two tight hours of TV coverage each night (maybe the first good thing to come out of COVID-19) starting at 9 p.m. ET. CNN and MSNBC will carry both hours live but the broadcast networks and Fox News will carry only the second hour, when the heavy-hitters show up. You can watch right here if you like in the window embedded below. Read on…

What should we expect? Outside the DNC’s inner circle, no one really knows:

Over four nights starting Monday, a behind-the-scenes crew of about 400 with operation centers in New York, Milwaukee, Los Angeles and Wilmington, Del., plans to broadcast to the nation hundreds of live video feeds from living rooms, national monuments and stages around the country, according to interviews with three people involved in planning the event.

That includes dozens of speakers who have been mailed video-production kits, with basic equipment such as microphones, lighting and advanced routers, so they can produce and transmit their own shots. Other homebound delegates will be dialed in to quick feeds of the live speeches, so their real-time reactions can be broadcast to the country as if they were in the same room as the speakers.

In two-hour nightly chunks, only one hour of which the broadcast networks have vowed to air, the live footage will be mixed in real time with a roughly equal share of prerecorded performances, mini-documentaries and speeches. Artists such as Billie Eilish, Prince Royce and the band formerly known as the Dixie Chicks — now simply the Chicks — have already filed video of their acts. Voters picked to excite key demographic targets — a Florida paramedic who emigrated from Mexico City and a former Trump voter from Pennsylvania, for example — have also cut video testimonials.

It’s gonna be awkward, but it’s unlikely to be boring if only because of the pace: Democrats are promising that speeches will last an average of two minutes(!). Bernie Sanders, one of the evening’s A-listers, was given just eight minutes. “With all the one- and two-minute speeches, this is basically the Quibi convention,” quipped Josh Barro. It’s true — with many of the speeches short and pre-recorded and the format seemingly ideal for viewing on mobile devices, there’s a distinct Quibi vibe to it.

Which is a bad omen for Democrats, one would think.

Tonight’s schedule is the usual blend. There are one or two speakers, namely Bernie and Michelle Obama, who’ll actually draw an audience. MObama was a smart choice for night one since she has a huge following; having her on the program is a way to get Americans to pay attention to the convention from the start. There are also officials whom the party either wants to show off or needs to show off to flatter swing-state voters. Amy Klobuchar is speaking in order to woo Minnesotans, who have been trending red. So is “Governor Karen,” Gretchen Whitmer, whom Biden needs to deliver Michigan. There’ll also be a special appearance by pandemic hero Andrew Cuomo, who’ll discuss his strategy of how to kill coronavirus by feeding it senior citizens until it dies.

This is also the night to showcase members of the other party who are switching sides this year. John Kasich is the headliner among that group, and yes, rest assured, he’ll be reminding us all again that his dad was a mailman as a segue into criticizing Trump for what’s going on with the Postal Service. Yesterday Kasich teased that another former Republican member of Congress of some renown would be speaking as well. That set off a burst of speculation. Was it … Justin Amash? No, it turns out. Amash was insulted by the suggestion. Was it … John Boehner? Please. Boehner wants nothing to do with politics anymore. Was it … Paul Ryan? That would be a true bombshell, but highly unlikely since Ryan’s still a young man of 50 with exceedingly high name recognition. In a few years, in a post-Trump GOP, he might be viable for statewide office in Wisconsin. Endorsing Biden tonight would foreclose that possibility.

So who is it? Turns out that Kasich apparently meant Susan Molinari, who left Congress more than 20 years ago after delivering the keynote at the 1996 GOP convention. Christine Todd Whitman and Meg Whitman (the CEO of Quibi!) will also speak before Kasich. That line-up is underwhelming, but Molinari and the two Whitmans are all well-educated centrist professional women disenchanted with the GOP, exactly the sort of voter whom Biden is counting on in the suburbs. All he wants from them and from Kasich is a “permission structure” for moderate Republicans who are watching to give in to that nagging feeling they’re having that maybe Trump isn’t the lesser of two evils this year.

Really, they should cancel all of them and just have this dude on instead. He’s way more effective:

One other interesting addition to the schedule tonight: Doug Jones of Alabama. Normally you’d expect the most endangered Democrat in the Senate, who’s facing nearly certain defeat this fall, to stay away from his party and run as a quasi-independent. The fact that Jones is instead showing up to speak on TV makes me think he’s already given up on his race and is looking towards an appointment in Biden’s administration. He’s a former U.S. Attorney; now that Harris is out of the running for Biden’s AG, maybe Jones is in the picture.

Here’s your thread to comment. Embedded below I’ve included a smattering of Twitter users worth following during the proceedings. Their commentary will appear in this window live as the night rolls on. Exit question: Do the Dems have something bigger planned than Kasich by way of surprise endorsements? Maybe not tonight, but I’m thinking that they must be begging the likes of James Mattis and John Kelly to endorse. If they could get one of Trump’s own top appointees to come out and say “he’s unfit” a la Miles Taylor above, that would be genuine news. Kasich’s support isn’t new.

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