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Michelle Obama closes out DNC first night with emotional speech

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First night of Democratic National Convention focuses on unity and pandemic toll 21:28

Democrats pushed a message of unity and competence Monday in the first night of the Democratic National Convention. Michelle Obama closed out the night with an emotional plea to vote for Joe Biden: " If we have any hope of ending this chaos, we have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it," she said. 

Obama, who wore a necklace that spelled out "V-O-T-E," gave an emotional plea for a return to "empathy." 

"Right now, kids in this country are seeing what happens when we stop requiring empathy of one another," Obama said. "They're looking around wondering if we've been lying to them this whole time about who we are and what we truly value."

Earlier in the night, four Republicans, including former Ohio Governor John Kasich, endorsed Biden. Thirteen of the 2020 Democratic candidates praised Biden in a pre-recorded video, while Bernie Sanders urged his supporters, the most liberal in the party, to vote against President Trump. If he is reelected, "all the progress we have made will be in jeopardy," Sanders said.

He excoriated Mr. Trump over his reaction to the coronavirus pandemic, saying, "Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Trump golfed." 

The biggest moments and takeaways from the first night of the DNC 06:23

Mr. Trump's reaction to the pandemic was highlighted by other Democrats, including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose state was once an epicenter of the outbreak. "COVID is the symptom, not the illness," Cuomo said in his speech, which was recorded in New York. "Our nation is in crisis, and in many ways, COVID is just a metaphor."

In a powerful speech from a non-elected official, Kristin Urquiza, whose 65-year-old father died over the summer after a weeks-long battle with coronavirus, slammed Mr. Trump for his response to the virus.

"His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that, he paid with his life," Urquiza said in a speech recorded for the convention. "The coronavirus has made it clear that there are two Americas: the America that Donald Trump lives in and the America that my father died in."

How to watch the Democratic National Convention

  • Date: Monday, August 17 to Thursday, August 20, 2020
  • Convention coverage on CBSN: 5 p.m. ET, 8:30 p.m. ET
  • Convention speakers live: 9-11 p.m. ET
  • Convention coverage simulcast on CBSN and your local CBS station: 10-11 p.m. ET
  • Post-convention coverage on CBSN: 11 p.m. ET
  • Online stream: Live on CBSN — in the player above and on the CBS News mobile app or your streaming device.

Latest updates:


What to expect on Tuesday

The DNC will continue Tuesday. During the day, a variety of councils and caucasus will meet on issues important to Democrats. In the evening, another round of well-known Democrats will take the virtual stage. 

Former President Bill Clinton will speak, as will former Secretary of State John Kerry and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will give a brief address, as will former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. Jill Biden, the former vice president's wife, is expected to cap off the night. 

Once again, the main program begins at 9 p.m. ET. 

By Kathryn Watson

Trump campaign claims coronavirus crisis would be "worse" under Biden

As the Trump administration presides over a nation with more deaths than any other country in the world, the Trump campaign responded to the Democratic convention in part by claiming the pandemic would be worse under Biden. 

"Perhaps it was just an oversight, but the first night of the Democrat convention left out the fact that Joe Biden would raise taxes on more than 80% of Americans by at least $4 trillion," Trump campaign press secretary Hogan Gidley said. "Also missing was his open borders policy, with amnesty and work permits for 11 million illegal aliens. There was no mention of Joe Biden's desire to cut police funding, kill ten million energy jobs with a green new deal, or give free healthcare to illegal aliens, but in fairness, it was only the first night."
"Biden also failed to highlight his opposition to President Trump's decision to restrict travel from China and Europe, which saved countless American lives," Gidley continued. "With history as our guide, if Joe Biden had been president, the coronavirus crisis would be dramatically worse."
So far, over 170,000 have died of COVID-19 in the U.S. this year.
The Trump campaign has also been trying to portray Biden as a vehicle for progressivism and socialism. 

By Kathryn Watson

Michelle Obama: "We have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it"

In the final address of the evening, keynote speaker Michelle Obama spoke frankly about the challenges she sees facing the country, and the steep responsibilities a president faces.

"I am one of the handful of people living today that have seen firsthand the immense weight and awesome power of the presidency," Obama said. "You simply cannot fake your way through this job."

Obama, who wore a necklace spelling out "V-O-T-E," implored voters to turn out to support Biden, after some stayed home in 2016. The decision not to vote "sent someone to the Oval Office who lost the national popular vote by nearly 3 million votes," she said.

Michelle Obama: "We have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it" 18:47

The former first lady talked about how the Trump presidency had undermined the achievements of her husband's tenure, and she also condemned Mr. Trump for the lack of empathy he has shown.

"Here at home, as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and a never ending list of innocent people of color continue to be murdered, stating the simple fact that a Black life matters is still met with derision from the nation's highest office," Obama said. "Sadly, this is the America that's on display for the next generation."

Obama also referenced the catchphrase she coined in her speech at the 2016 Democratic convention, when she said, "When they go low, we go high."

"Over the past four years, a lot of people have asked me, 'When others are going so low, does going high still really work?'" Obama said. "My answer: going high is the only thing that works."

Without naming the president, she offered her assessment that Mr. Trump "cannot meet this moment," that he can't be the president we need him to be. "He is clearly in over his head. It is what it is," she said, echoing Mr. Trump's own remark in an Axios interview a few weeks ago, when challenged about the fact that 1,000 Americans were dying each day.

"If you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can; and they will if we don't make a change in this election. If we have any hope of ending this chaos, we have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it," Obama said.

She also spoke about her relationship with Biden, and touched on his resilience in the face of personal tragedy: "His life is a testament to getting back up." 

"I know Joe. He is a profoundly decent man guided by faith," Obama said. "He was a terrific vice president. He knows what it takes to rescue an economy, beat back a pandemic and lead our country."

She did not mention Biden's running mate, Kamala Harris, in the speech because it was recorded before Harris' selection was announced.

Obama urged people to be enthusiastic about participating in the upcoming election and turn out in levels that sent her husband to the White House in 2008 and 2012.

"We have got to grab our comfortable shoes, put on our masks, pack a brown bag dinner and maybe breakfast too, because we've got to be willing to stand in line all night if we have to," Obama said. "It is up to us to add our voices and our vote to the chorus of history."

Obama finished her speech by reiterating the importance of empathy and making a good impression for the country's children.

"We want to be able to look our children in the eye after this election, we have got to reassert our place in American history. And we have got to do everything we can to elect my friend, Joe Biden, as the next president of the United States," she said.

By Grace Segers

Bernie Sanders: "Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Trump golfed"

Senator Bernie Sanders, democratic socialist and Joe Biden's most formidable primary opponent, urged his supporters to vote against Mr. Trump – and for Biden.

"My friends, thank you for your trust, your support and the love you showed Jane, me and our family. Together we have moved this country in a bold new direction," he said, adding, "Our campaign ended several months ago, but our movement continues and is getting stronger every day."

But if Mr. Trump is elected, "all the progress we have made will be in jeopardy." 

Sanders: "Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Trump golfed" 08:28

The Vermont senator made the argument that the president has woefully failed in his responsibilities to protect the nation from COVID-19.

"Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Trump golfed," Sanders said. 

Sanders said he knows Biden will begin the fight to make the nation more equitable and inclusive on day one. 

"The future of our democracy is at stake. The future of our economy is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake," Sanders said.

"We must come together to defeat Donald Trump and elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, as the next president and vice president of the United States. "My friends, the price of failure is just too great to imagine."

By Kathryn Watson

Former presidential candidates praise Biden

Several of Biden's former opponents in the Democratic primaries praised him in a pre-recorded video, emphasizing unity within the party. Many of them discussed their personal relationships with Biden.

Senator Cory Booker recalled a moment during one of the Democratic debates when, after a heated exchange, Biden turned to him during the commercial break and told Booker "how good my ideas are." Andrew Yang said that Biden called him on the night he suspended his campaign, and "told me I should be proud of myself."

"He's the kind of leader that brings other leaders in," Beto O'Rourke said.

However, several former opponents were noticeably absent, such as Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Julian Castro.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, who had given a live speech before the video played, said that the day she suspended her campaign was a "day of great joy," because she had endorsed Biden on the same day.

By Grace Segers

Kasich says Biden is a "man for our times"

Former Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich, speaking at an actual fork in a road, said the nation is at a "crossroads." Kasich said he's a lifelong Republican, but patriotism comes before country. 

"I'm proud of my Republican heritage … but what I have witnessed these past four years belies these principles." 

That's why, Kasich said, he is calling on Americans to vote for Biden. The former governor characterized Biden as a man of faith who understands the common man and woman. 

"Yes, there are areas where Joe and I absolutely disagree," Kasich said. "That's OK. That's America." He sought to reassure Republicans and independents that Biden won't "turn sharp left and leave them behind" if he wins the presidency, because he is "reasonable, faithful, respectful," and "no one pushes Joe around."

No person or party has all the answers, but the nation can do better, he said. Biden, Kasich said, is a "man for our times."

By Kathryn Watson

Whitmer says Biden and Harris will "lead by example"

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, speaking in Lansing, Michigan, made the case that the Obama-Biden administration brought back jobs and saved auto workers in the last financial crisis. That can happen again, she said. 

"That's the story of this great nation," Whitmer said. "Action begets action. Progress begets progress. And when we work together, we can accomplish anything."

Imagine, Whitmer said, if there were a national testing strategy. Biden and Harris, she said, would "lead by example." 

Following Whitmer's speech, a video played featuring doctors, children and veterans who have died from COVID-19.

By Kathryn Watson

Daughter of COVID victim: "His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump"

Kristin Urquiza, whose 65-year-old father died this summer after a weeks-long battle with coronavirus, slammed Mr. Trump for his response to the virus.

"His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that, he paid with his life," Urquiza said in a speech recorded for the convention. "The coronavirus has made it clear that there are two Americas: the America that Donald Trump lives in and the America that my father died in."

Election 2020 DNC
In this image from video, Kristin Urquiza of San Francisco, speaks during the first night of the Democratic National Convention. Democratic National Convention via AP

"One of the last things that my father said to me was that he felt betrayed by the likes of Donald Trump. And so, when I cast my vote for Joe Biden, I will do it for my dad," Urquiza continued.

Urquiza slammed Mr. Trump and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican, in the obituary she wrote for her father. She blamed her father's death on the "carelessness of the politicians who continue to jeopardize the health of brown bodies." Biden later wrote a letter to Urquiza offering his condolences.

By Grace Segers

Cuomo: "COVID is the symptom, not the illness"

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose state was an early epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, compared the effects of American political divisiveness to the spread of the virus. As he spoke, graphics showing the COVID infection rate in New York appeared on screen.

"COVID is the symptom, not the illness," Cuomo said in his speech, which was recorded in New York. "Our nation is in crisis, and in many ways, COVID is just a metaphor."

"COVID is the symptom, not the illness," Cuomo says at DNC 06:14

The New York governor described Mr. Trump's presidency as an outcome of the country's polarization.

"Donald Trump didn't create the initial division," Cuomo said. "The division created Trump. He only made it worse."

"Only a strong body can fight off the virus, and America's divisions weakened it."

"Government matters and leadership matters," Cuomo said. "Joe Biden can restore the soul of America, and that's exactly what our country needs today."

Cuomo also touted New York's response to the virus, although he has been criticized by some for not responding to the crisis sooner. Over 32,000 people have died of coronavirus in the state.

By Grace Segers

George Floyd's brothers speak

Democrats observed a moment of silence for George Floyd, the African-American man whose death in police custody sparked protests across the country.

Floyd's brothers were among the first to speak during the convention. 

"George should be alive today," Philonise Floyd said, before listing other African-Americans who died in police custody or at the hands of law enforcement. 

Philonise Floyd said it's "up to us to carry on the fight for justice."

Election 2020 DNC
In this image from video, Philonise Floyd, right, and Rodney Floyd speaks during the first night of the Democratic National Convention on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020.  Democratic National Convention via AP
By Kathryn Watson

Four Americans featured in the beginning of the convention

The first night of the convention kicked off with a conversation with four Americans moderated by actress Eva Longoria:

  • Rick Telesz, a farmer in Volant, Pennsylvania who voted for Mr. Trump in 2016, criticized President Trump's trade war, and will be voting for Biden in November. 
  • Teen activist and author Marley Dias, of West Orange, New Jersey, launched a campaign called #1000BlackGirlBooks when she was in middle school in 2015.
  • School nurse Michelle Beebe, of El Paso, is worried about school safety and her children; 
  • Small business owner Scott Richardson and his wife run a restaurant called Occasionally Yours, in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, and they've been struggling to keep their business afloat during the pandemic. 
Election 2020 DNC
In this image from video, Eva Longoria, serving as moderator, speaks during the first night of the Democratic National Convention on Monday, August 17, 2020. Democratic National Convention via AP)

The convention began with a rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" featuring singers from all fifty states. Congresswoman Gwen Moore, who represents Milwaukee — the original site of the convention — also delivered a speech at the beginning of the event.

By Grace Segers

CBS News Battleground Tracker poll finds Biden with a 10-point lead nationally

The CBS News Battleground Tracker poll, conducted prior to the Democratic National Convention, had Joe Biden leading President Trump 52% to 42% nationally. CBS News' director of surveys and elections Anthony Salvanto joins CBSN's Elaine Quijano to dive into the poll's findings.

CBS News Battleground Tracker poll finds Biden with a 10-point lead nationally 05:31

Kamala Harris' husband taking leave of absence from law office

Douglas Emhoff, the husband of Kamala Harris, is taking a leave of absence from his law office, a campaign aide confirmed to CBS News.

Emhoff is a litigator in the Los Angeles office of the firm DLA Piper. According to the firm's website, Emhoff "represents large domestic and international corporations and some of today's highest profile individuals and influencers in complex business, real estate and intellectual property litigation disputes."

Harris and Emhoff married in 2014. Emhoff's two children from a previous marriage call Harris "Momala."

Democratic vice presidential running mate, US Senator Kamala Harris and her husband Douglas Emhoff wave from the stage after the first Biden-Harris press conference in Wilmington, Delaware, on August 12, 2020.  OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images
By Grace Segers

Trump tries to counter-program DNC with stops in Minnesota and Wisconsin

Mr. Trump spent the day campaigning in Minnesota and Wisconsin, states where the presidential race was close in 2016. The latest CBS News polling in both states shows Biden leading. 

In Wisconsin and Minnesota, Mr. Trump suggested the Democratic convention will be boring, and questioned how interested people will be in speeches by Biden and Michelle Obama. 

"We're doing a real speech on Thursday, next Thursday so you'll be listening. We're doing it live from the White House. Live from the White House and we have plenty to say," the president said

The president also said the only way he'll lose the election is if it's "rigged."

Trump talks economy and coronavirus response in Minnesota 03:37
By Kathryn Watson

Republican Kasich on speech at Democratic convention: "These are not normal times"

John Kasich, the former governor of Ohio and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, is the highest-profile Republican speaking at the Democratic convention. Giving him a speaking slot has caused some controversy, but his speech sends a message of unity between liberal and moderate voters.

"I'm a lifelong Republican, but that attachment holds second place to my responsibility to my country. That's why I've chosen to appear at this convention. In normal times, something like this would probably never happen, but these are not normal times," Kasich will say in his speech, according to excerpts provided by the Democratic National Convention Committee.

"Yes, there are areas where Joe and I absolutely disagree. But that's OK because that's America. Because whatever our differences, we respect one another as human beings, each of us searching for justice and for purpose," Kasich will say. "Joe Biden, with his experience and his wisdom and his decency, can bring us together to help us find that better way."

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive rising star in the party who is speaking on Tuesday, expressed her reservations about Kasich's appearance on Twitter.

"It's great that Kasich has woken up & realized the importance of supporting a Biden-Harris ticket. I hope he gets through to GOP voters," Ocasio-Cortez wrote. "Yet also, something tells me a Republican who fights against women's rights doesn't get to say who is or isn't representative of the Dem party."

In another tweet, she called Kasich an "anti-choice extremist."

By Grace Segers

Bernie Sanders: From Biden rival to supporter

In Sanders' second bid for the presidency, he repeated his strong support among young voters, and had some success in moving the Democratic Party toward some of his more progressive ideas. But Democrats sought a candidate who could beat President Trump and ultimately put their faith in Biden. 

Now, the more liberal wing of the party that backed Sanders in the primaries appears to be coalescing behind Biden, with two in three Democrats saying that Biden agrees with Sanders the right amount.

Sanders endorsed Biden soon after exiting the race, and most Democrats say Biden has struck the right balance in his agreement with Sanders' ideas. Outside the party, independents' views are more mixed, with nearly half (47%) saying Biden agrees too much with Sanders' ideas — and those independents are backing Mr. Trump. Independents who don't hold this view are voting for Biden.

About half of voters who identify as "very liberal" don't think Biden has embraced Sanders' ideas enough, but these voters are overwhelmingly backing Biden over Mr. Trump anyway, and they're as likely as other Biden voters to say they'll vote this year, even if they are doing so mostly to oppose Mr. Trump. Overall, 9 in 10 of very liberal voters say they are voting for Biden; similar to the level of support Biden is getting from voters who call themselves "somewhat liberal."

Some 62% of voters under 30 are currently backing Biden, higher than the percentage that backed Hillary Clinton in 2016. Clinton's share of the youth vote in key battleground states she lost fell short of Barack Obama's share in his presidential bids.

Read more here.

By Jennifer De Pinto

Sanders will call for an "unprecedented response" to the crises faced by Americans

Senator Bernie Sanders, who was the last competitor standing against Biden in the primaries, will be delivering his remarks in a high-profile time slot. The slot reflects his support within the party as the runner-up in both the 2016 and 2020 Democratic primaries.

"This election is the most important in the modern history of this country. In response to the unprecedented set of crises we face, we need an unprecedented response — a movement, like never before, of people who are prepared to stand up and fight for democracy and decency — and against greed, oligarchy and authoritarianism," Sanders will say,  according to an excerpt released.

Sanders will also urge his supporters and those who voted for others in the primary to rally behind Biden.

"The future of our democracy is at stake. The future of our economy is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake. We must come together, defeat Donald Trump and elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our next president and vice president. My friends, the price of failure is just too great to imagine," Sanders will say. 

By Grace Segers

What to expect on Day 1 of the Democratic National Convention

The Democrats' virtual convention kicks off Monday evening, with speeches from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and former first lady Michelle Obama. CBS News political correspondent Ed O'Keefe, CBS News political director Caitlin Conant, and Politico White House correspondent Anita Kumar join CBSN's Elaine Quijano on "Red and Blue" to discuss what to expect on the first night of the convention.

What to expect on Day 1 of the Democratic National Convention 07:17

Michelle Obama in speech: "I know Joe"

In excerpts from her speech released before the event began, former first lady Michelle Obama talks about Biden in personal terms, telling voters "I know Joe" in her speech, which was taped before the convention.

"I know Joe. He is a profoundly decent man guided by faith," Obama says, according to an excerpt released by the convention committee late Monday afternoon. "He was a terrific vice president. He knows what it takes to rescue an economy, beat back a pandemic and lead our country."

"And he listens. He will tell the truth and trust science. He will make smart plans and manage a good team. And he will govern as someone who's lived a life that the rest of us can recognize." 

According to a source familiar with the speech, Obama put a lot of work into the address, which is a full-throated endorsement of Biden. She emphasizes his competence, his character and his empathy, all three traits intended to present a sharp contrast with Mr. Trump.

Four years ago, at the 2016 convention, Obama's speech was widely praised. She coined the phrase "when they go low, we go high," which became a rallying cry for Hillary Clinton's campaign.

— Grace Segers and Jenna Gibson 

Former First Lady Michelle Obama: I Know Joe by 2020 Democratic National Convention on YouTube

Four Republicans to address Democratic convention

In addition to former Ohio Governor John Kasich, a former GOP presidential candidate, the Democratic National Convention Committee announced that three other Republicans will be speaking Monday: former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman and former Congresswoman Susan Molinari of New York.


Setting the stage for the Democratic Party's unconventional convention

American political conventions have been shrinking, and in the age of COVID-19, they are shrinking down to the size of a computer screen. John Dickerson of "60 Minutes" takes a look at this year's unconventional Democratic National Convention.

John Dickerson on an unconventional convention 03:37

Convention speakers primetime lineup


  • Senator Bernie Sanders
  • Senator Catherine Cortez Masto
  • Governor Andrew Cuomo
  • Governor Gretchen Whitmer
  • Congressman Jim Clyburn
  • Congressman Bennie Thompson
  • Congresswoman Gwen Moore
  • Former Governor John Kasich
  • Senator Doug Jones
  • Senator Amy Klobuchar
  • Former first lady Michelle Obama


  • Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer
  • Former Secretary of State John Kerry
  • Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
  • Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester
  • Former President Bill Clinton
  • Former second lady Jill Biden


  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
  • Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
  • Senator Elizabeth Warren
  • Governor Tony Evers
  • Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham
  • Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords
  • Senator Kamala Harris
  • Former President Barack Obama


  • Senator Cory Booker
  • Governor Gavin Newsom
  • Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms
  • Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  • Senator Tammy Baldwin
  • Senator Tammy Duckworth
  • Senator Chris Coons
  • The Biden family
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
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