Driven online, like so much of life, by the pandemic, the Democratic National Convention that is getting underway Monday night will not feature the customary cheers, boos and cascading balloon drops of yore — or, its organizers hope, the dropped Zoom calls of today.
The event, which is nominally being held in Milwaukee, is being streamed and televised from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern time. It will feature Michelle Obama, the former first lady, in a leading role, and will offer remarks from an ideologically wide range of speakers who want to turn the page on the Trump era — from Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who has tried to move the Democratic Party to the left during two runs for president, to several prominent Republicans who will help make the case for Joseph R. Biden Jr. over President Trump.
Christine Todd Whitman, a former Republican governor of New Jersey who was later appointed by President George W. Bush to run the Environmental Protection Agency, will speak. So will Meg Whitman, a major Republican fund-raiser and the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive, who ran for governor of California in 2010; Susan Molinari, a former Republican congresswoman from New York; and former Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio, who sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
“I’m a lifelong Republican, but that attachment holds second place to my responsibility to my country,” Mr. Kasich will say, in remarks as prepared for delivery. “That’s why I’ve chosen to appear at this convention.”
They will add their names to a lineup of prominent Democrats. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan will speak about the coronavirus, which Mr. Trump has failed to get under control.
“Only a strong body can fight off the virus, and America’s divisions weakened it,” Mr. Cuomo will say, according to prepared remarks. “Donald Trump didn’t create the initial division. The division created Trump; he only made it worse.”
And Ms. Whitmer will praise essential workers — a group she will pointedly say does not include “a president who fights his fellow Americans rather than fight the virus that’s killing us and our economy.
For those keeping track at home, here is the lineup for Monday night, as announced by the Democratic National Convention Committee:
Introduction: the actress Eva Longoria.
Call to order: Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi.
Featured speakers: Representative Gwen Moore of Wisconsin; Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C.; Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina; Mr. Cuomo; Kristin Urquiza, who lost her father to the coronavirus; Sara Gideon, the speaker of the Maine House of Representatives; Ms. Whitmer; Christine Todd Whitman; Meg Whitman; Ms. Molinari; Mr. Kasich; Senator Doug Jones of Alabama; Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada; Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; Mr. Richmond; and Mr. Sanders.
Then the main event: Ms. Obama will deliver keynote remarks.
The virtual convention format will test the speakers, since politicians accustomed to giving tub-thumping speeches feed off applause and cheers every bit as much as stand-up comedians feed off laughter. Another big unknown is how big an audience — accustomed to past dispatches from correspondents roving the convention floor — will tune in or log on.
Far more predictable is the president’s reaction to the online anti-Trump pageant. He let loose a new torrent of provocations, misrepresentations and threats, as the convention approached, not merely an effort at self-defense, but an attempt to refocus the camera on himself.
“How many ways are there to say that this is not normal?” asks Peter Baker, our White House bureau chief.
New national surveys show that Joseph R. Biden Jr. maintains a significant if slightly diminished lead over President Trump, leaving him in a stronger position to oust an incumbent president than any challenger heading into his party’s convention in the modern polling era.
On average, Mr. Biden leads by eight to nine percentage points among likely voters. His advantage is perhaps slightly smaller than it was a month ago, when high-quality live-interview telephone surveys routinely showed him with a double-digit lead. But it is still the largest and most persistent national polling lead that any candidate has held in 24 years, since Bill Clinton maintained a double-digit advantage as an incumbent in 1996.
The conventions often introduce a volatile and uncertain period for public polling, as candidates usually gain in the polls after several days in the limelight on national television. Though the virtual nature of this year’s conventions could dampen that effect, this may be the last unbiased measurement of the state of the race until mid-September.
For now, the state of the race is clear, ending a nearly two-month period when live-interview and online polls showed a modestly different race. The new consensus can mainly be attributed to a shift among live-interview telephone surveys, which show a modest two-point shift in Mr. Trump’s direction. The online polls have remained largely unchanged.
It is too soon to evaluate what effect Mr. Biden’s selection of Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate might have. So far, there are no early signs that she has revitalized his standing among nonwhite voters. The only two telephone surveys conducted entirely after her selection, from CNN/SSRS and ABC News/Washington Post, show Mr. Biden faring somewhat worse among nonwhite voters than in their prior surveys from June or July.
Back in 2012, President Barack Obama’s advisers routinely referred to Michelle Obama as “the most popular” political figure in the country — and many thought her rousing and resonant speech at the Democratic convention in Charlotte that year was the apex of that very non-virtual event.
Eight years later, aides to Joseph R. Biden Jr. (many of them former Obama White House hands) feel pretty much the same way about a woman whose wildly successful memoir, “Becoming,” transformed the one-time corporate lawyer into an international cultural icon.
That is why they chose Mrs. Obama to anchor the first night of the first-ever Zoom convention, a prime-time keynote that is expected to garner as much attention among the party faithful as any on the four-night bill, apart from the speeches by her husband and Mr. Biden.
It is likely that she will use the slot to call out President Trump directly and forcefully, a shift in tone from her previous approach, said one Democrat familiar with the planning.
“It is a no-brainer to have her go on the first night,” said Jennifer Palmieri, a top adviser to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign who wrote a book about women in politics. “She’s the most admired woman in America, and the only political figure with a significant reach beyond politics.”
In a short excerpt from the speech provided by the Democratic National Committee, Mrs. Obama praised Mr. Biden as a “profoundly decent man” and contrasted him with his opponent, saying the former vice president “will tell the truth” and “will govern as someone who has lived a life that the rest of us can recognize.”
Mrs. Obama’s speech, which will air in the 10 p.m. hour, has been in the can for at least a week, according to people close to the situation.
The speech was prerecorded because event planners did not want to risk running it live in anticipation of opening-night technical glitches.
Mrs. Obama has told friends she views the speech as her major contribution to the 2020 race, working on it with a team that included her longtime speechwriter, Sarah Hurwitz, a person close to the process said.
She will discuss the personal tragedies that have defined Mr. Biden’s life, said Mrs. Obama’s friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett. “He is able to feel other people’s pain,” Ms. Jarrett said in an interview. “That is a contrast between Joe and the current president.”
The former first lady is a confident but reticent performer who prefers to be more politics-adjacent than overtly partisan. She has dismissed, emphatically, any suggestion she parlay her popularity into a run for office. (Still, a poll in May showed two-thirds of Democrats wanted her to be Mr. Biden’s running mate.)
In an interview last July, Mrs. Obama, 56, spoke bluntly about the strains of attending Mr. Trump’s inauguration and having to make small talk with Melania Trump, the first lady, who was accused of cribbing parts of her 2016 Republican convention speech in Cleveland from Mrs. Obama’s introduction of her husband at the 2008 Democratic convention in Denver.
“And then we had to meet the Trumps,” she told her friend Gayle King during an onstage discussion in New Orleans. “That day was very emotional, and then to sit at that inauguration and to look around at a crowd that was not reflective of the country.”
Miles Taylor, a former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security during President Trump’s term, endorsed former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. for president on Monday, saying what he witnessed the current president do as chief executive “was terrifying.”
Mr. Taylor, who made the announcement ahead of the first night of the Democratic National Convention, is the most senior former member of the administration to openly endorse Mr. Biden, and he joins a small number of other officials, including the former national security adviser John Bolton, who have publicly questioned Mr. Trump’s management of the government.
In a testimonial video for the group Republican Voters Against Trump, Mr. Taylor said that each week working there “was terrifying.” He described officials going to the White House to try to discuss a range of national security threats with the president, only to find him uninterested.
“The president wanted to exploit the Department of Homeland Security for his own political purposes, and to fuel his own agenda,” Mr. Taylor said in the video. He recalled a phone call related to the California wildfires, during which Mr. Trump told Federal Emergency Management Agency officials to “stop giving money to people whose houses had burned down” because he was so incensed the state hadn’t voted for him.
Mr. Taylor said that Mr. Trump also wanted to have a “deliberate policy” of separating children from their parents during illegal border crossings as a deterrent.
“A lot of the times the things he wanted to do not only were impossible but in many cases illegal,” Mr. Taylor recalled. “He didn’t want us to tell him it was illegal anymore because he knew that there were — and these were his words — he knew that he had ‘magical authorities.’”
“He was one of the most unfocused and undisciplined senior executives I’ve ever encountered,” Mr. Taylor said. “I came away completely convinced based on firsthand experience that the president was ill-equipped and wouldn’t become equipped to do his job effectively, and what’s worse, was actively doing damage to our security.”
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who has come under fire for financial ties to a company that does business with the United States Postal Service, received between $1.2 million and $7 million in income last year from that firm, according to financial disclosure forms reviewed by The New York Times.
Mr. DeJoy continues to hold between $25 million and $50 million in that company, XPO Logistics, where he was chief executive until 2015 and a board member until 2018. Those stock holdings were first reported last week by CNN.
But documents filed with the Office of Government Ethics show that Mr. DeJoy also receives millions of dollars in rental payments from XPO through leasing agreements at buildings that he owns. The revelations are likely to fuel further scrutiny of Mr. DeJoy, a major donor to President Trump who has made cost-cutting moves and other changes at the Postal Service that Democrats warn are aimed at undermining the 2020 election.
Mr. DeJoy agreed on Monday to testify next week before the House Oversight Committee, where Democrats are expected to press him on the justification for his policies and question his potential conflicts of interest.
Mr. DeJoy has maintained that he has fully complied with federal ethics rules and that the measures he has implemented are necessary to modernize the Postal Service. “I take my ethical obligations seriously, and I have done what is necessary to ensure that I am and will remain in compliance with those obligations,” Mr. DeJoy said in a statement.
Financial documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Office of Government Ethics show Mr. DeJoy earned millions in rental income last year from XPO, though the exact amount could not be determined because the office’s disclosure forms only give a range of figures.
Elsewhere on the postal front:
Two Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee urged the F.B.I. to open a criminal investigation into actions by Mr. DeJoy and the Postal Service’s Board of Governors that may have caused mail delays. “Multiple media investigations show that Postmaster DeJoy and the Board of Governors have retarded the passage of mail,” Representatives Ted W. Lieu of California and Hakeem Jeffries of New York wrote in a letter to the F.B.I. director. “If their intent in doing so was to affect mail-in balloting or was motivated by personal financial reasons, then they likely committed crimes.”
Mail-in voters from six states filed a lawsuit against Mr. Trump and Mr. DeJoy, seeking to block cuts to the Postal Service ahead of the election. The suit, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan on behalf of 17 plaintiffs from California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey, Wisconsin and New York, asks the court to declare that Mr. Trump and Mr. DeJoy have violated voters’ rights by cutting the Postal Service in an effort to stymie mail-in voting.
Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, the majority leader, pushed back on Monday on concerns that the Postal Service would not be able to handle as many as 80 million ballots come November, telling reporters in his home state that “the Postal Service is going to be just fine” and that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had already signaled a willingness to spend more on it.
The House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, said Sunday that she would call the House back from its annual summer recess almost a month early to vote this week on legislation to block changes at the Postal Service.
Postal slowdowns and warnings of delayed mail-in ballots are causing election officials to rethink vote-by-mail strategies, with some states seeking to bypass the post office with ballot drop boxes, drive-through drop-offs or expanded in-person voting options, despite the coronavirus pandemic.
The 2020 election was supposed to be the largest-ever experiment in voting by mail, but the Trump administration’s late cost-cutting push at the Postal Service has shaken the confidence of voters and Democratic officials alike. The images of sorting machines being removed from postal facilities, mailboxes uprooted or bolted shut on city streets, and packages piling up at mail facilities have sparked anger and deep worry.
Even if, as the Postal Service says, it has plenty of capacity to process mail-in ballots, the fear is that the psychological damage is already done. So as Democrats in Washington fight to restore Postal Service funding, election officials around the country are looking for a Plan B.
“The office has been flooded with calls for the past few days,” said Katie Hobbs, the secretary of state of Arizona and a Democrat. “The concern I have is that, like any campaign of misinformation, it attempts to undermine voters’ confidence in our process.”
The newest front in the battle over voting in 2020 is the drop box, where ballots mailed out to voters can be returned without fear of Postal Service backlogs or coronavirus infection. Once voters deposit their ballots in such boxes, they are collected by election officials and brought to polling places for tabulation.
Election officials in Connecticut, Virginia, Pennsylvania and elsewhere are seeking to expand drop-off locations for absentee and mail-in ballots, but they have met vehement opposition from President Trump and his campaign.
Kamala Harris’s husband, Douglas C. Emhoff, has taken a leave of absence from the international law firm DLA Piper, a law firm spokesman said Monday evening, confirming a development first reported by The American Lawyer.
Mr. Emhoff, a litigator in the firm’s Los Angeles office, joined DLA Piper as a partner in Los Angeles in 2017. That same year, Mr. Emhoff was admitted to the District of Columbia bar — also the year Ms. Harris joined the United States Senate — prompting speculation that he planned to devote more of his time to the Washington area, where the couple also has a home.
But DLA Piper’s long list of clients with government interests, including foreign entities, raises potential ethical questions about Mr. Emhoff’s future employment. If Ms. Harris becomes vice president, some ethics experts have said, Mr. Emhoff’s continuing law practice could prompt allegations that clients of his firm were receiving special favors from the administration.
Bob Shrum, a longtime adviser to Democratic candidates, said questions about Mr. Emhoff’s practice — and what to do about it — may already be under consideration by the Biden-Harris team.
“I have no doubt that a Biden-Harris administration would look at this issue very carefully and would impose rules that would ensure that there was no conflict of interest,” said Mr. Shrum, who currently teaches at the University of Southern California. “I think Biden’s own internal compass and Harris’s own internal compass will set really clear and tough standards.”
Josh Epstein, a DLA Piper spokesman, would not comment on Mr. Emhoff’s future plans, except to say that he is taking a leave of absence. Mr. Emhoff is believed to be transitioning his clients to other attorneys in the firm.
Before joining DLA Piper, Mr. Emhoff had been a partner in Los Angeles for the firm Venable, where he represented an eclectic list of clients ranging from Merck and Walmart to financial entities and entertainment companies.
Former staff members of the presidential campaign of Michael R. Bloomberg, the former New York mayor whose failed billion-dollar bid for the White House lasted just over three months, have called for him to be removed from the Democrats’ convention program.
Hours after their demand was made public, a source close to Mr. Bloomberg said the party-hopping billionaire planned to donate $60 million to House Democrats, about the same amount he shelled out in 2018.
The debate over Mr. Bloomberg’s presence on the program illustrates the unique challenges faced by a party seeking to fuse together a disparate coalition of progressives, unions and monied moderates like the former mayor.
Six former employees, who are among those who have sued Mr. Bloomberg for wrongful termination, released an open letter on Monday to the Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez asking him to cancel Mr. Bloomberg’s remarks “and replace him with a Democratic politician or labor leader who supports workers’ rights and other core Democratic Party values.”
They also asked Mr. Perez, whose organization received an $18 million transfer from Mr. Bloomberg in March, for their jobs back and the opportunity to work in the field for Joseph R. Biden Jr.
The letter was signed by people who had worked as field organizers for Mr. Bloomberg in Georgia, Utah and Washington State and are involved in one of several lawsuits against Mr. Bloomberg relating to the terms under which they were let go when he dropped out of the race in March.
In the suit, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan last spring, the former staff members alleged that Mr. Bloomberg had tricked them into taking jobs that they expected to last through the election — regardless of who won the Democratic nomination.
The workers summarized their grievances anew in the letter to Mr. Perez on Monday, noting that thousands like them had been abruptly terminated in the midst of the pandemic. “This is the type of greedy, anti-worker move we’d expect from Donald Trump, but not from a Democratic presidential candidate,” they wrote.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Bloomberg disputed the former employees’ claims on Monday. “Like every campaign that ends, people were let go. Unlike other campaigns however, Mike Bloomberg gave his staff health insurance through November as well as severance,” the spokeswoman wrote in an email, calling Mr. Bloomberg “the biggest supporter of the Democratic Party.”
Mr. Bloomberg also responded monetarily: He plans to fund broadcast and digital ads to help protect the seats of Democratic moderates elected two years ago, a person close to him said.
The donation was first reported by the Washington Post.
The former staffers named a dozen other public figures, including politicians like Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and labor leaders like AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, whom they argued ought to take Mr. Bloomberg’s spot.
“All of these people are far better suited to credibly and powerfully speak about the values that we hold dear as Democrats and the things Democrats want to accomplish to make our economy work for working families again,” they wrote, “instead of further rigging the system for billionaires like Mike Bloomberg to make even more profit.”
Former President Barack Obama tweeted out his annual summer playlist Monday evening, hours before the Democratic National Convention was set to begin, and it featured a big tent’s worth of music spanning diverse genres, tempos, moods and decades, befitting his party of many parts.
Some of the selections seemed to hint, slyly, at deeper meanings and obvious targets — “Gaslighter,” by the Chicks; “The Climb Back,” by J. Cole; “Be Honest,” by Jorja Smith; “Be Afraid,” by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit; and a melancholy but hopeful Billie Holiday version of the standard “I’ll Be Seeing You.”
Mr. Obama’s song list, along with his set of book recommendations, has become a social media staple, and is typically one of the most clicked-on playlists on Spotify.
Last year’s picks included songs from Beyoncé, Bruce Springsteen, Rosalía, Frank Ocean and Big Thief.
“Over the past few months, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to music with my family,” Mr. Obama, who will address the convention Wednesday, wrote to his more than 120 million followers. “I wanted to share some of my favorites from the summer—including songs from some of the artists at this week’s @DemConvention. Hope you enjoy it.”
There were 53 songs on the playlist, and eight of them were by artists who will perform at the convention, including Maggie Rogers and Jennifer Hudson.
The list also includes “Lockdown,” a track from Grammy-winning songwriter Anderson .Paak that was released earlier this year.
“Oh, won’t you tell me ’bout the lootin’ what’s that really all about?’” he asks in the song. “Cause they throw away Black lives like paper towels. Plus unemployment rate, what, forty million now? Killed a man in broad day, might never see a trial. We just wanna break chains like slaves in the South.”
OSHKOSH, Wis. — With the Democratic National Convention set to kick off, President Trump offered a dose of counterprogramming on Monday, campaigning the old-fashioned way despite the coronavirus pandemic.
After making stops in Minnesota earlier in the day, the president traveled to the battleground state of Wisconsin, where at least 700 supporters gathered for an event at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh and cheered wildly as Air Force One landed.
Plenty of red hats but few masks could be seen in the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd, which was overwhelmingly white and older. “Four more years!” the crowd chanted.
Supporters mostly cheered Mr. Trump’s talking points, such as support for gun rights, law enforcement and rebuilding the economy. “You want to defund and defame and dismantle the police?” Mr. Trump said to boos. “I don’t think so.”
The applause faltered noticeably, however, when the president brought up the topic of the coronavirus. “We handled it,” he said. “We handled it well.”
Oshkosh is in Winnebago County, which voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, but swung to Mr. Trump in 2016. The president’s visit is the latest example of what is turning out to be an asymmetrical campaign, with Mr. Trump making in-person appearances before crowds while his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., refrains from holding rally-style events.
Democrats had planned to hold an in-person convention in Milwaukee this week, but the gathering will now be mostly virtual, and Mr. Biden will not be traveling to Wisconsin.
Speaking hours before the Democratic convention began, Mr. Trump suggested the upcoming programming would not be enticing. “Who wants to listen to Michelle Obama do a taped speech?” he asked.
Kay Nolan reported from Oshkosh, and Thomas Kaplan from Wilmington, Del.
Cardi B, the Bronx-raised rapper known for hot summer songs and even hotter takes, remains a critical voice in politics, particularly for millennial and Gen-Z voters. She has leveraged her platform and her nearly 73 million Instagram followers to educate her young and diverse fan base on a range of issues, including the importance of getting out the vote.
Her talent as a delightfully straightforward and relatable political commentator has been evident since she began supporting Senator Bernie Sanders during his first presidential run in 2016. (The two have since been known to FaceTime about everything from parenting to Social Security.)
In April, just after Mr. Sanders dropped out of the 2020 race, Cardi B interviewed him on Instagram and asked him why he had decided to endorse Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., especially given the gulf that exists between the two men’s policies. She has since endorsed Mr. Biden — who she has repeatedly described as “conservative” — and she was one of the chorus of voices who called on him to select a Black woman as his running mate.
In an Elle interview published on Monday, Cardi B spoke with Mr. Biden over Zoom about her hopes for how he would handle the coronavirus pandemic, student loan debt, racial inequality and health care if elected. The steady undercurrent beneath the discussion was a shared interest in replacing President Trump.
“I have a whole list of things that I want our next president to do for us,” she said. “But first, I just want Trump out. His mouth gets us in trouble so much. I don’t want to be lied to — we’re dealing with a pandemic right now, and I just want answers.”
Cardi B used her own lived experience to formulate questions for Mr. Biden that urged him to define his policies and how they’ll be implemented; the tactic left little room for theoretical filler.
In response to her lament that Mr. Trump’s mercurial attitude toward the coronavirus had been confusing to the American public, Biden emphasized the importance of voting to replace him.
“In 2016, if 18- to 24-year-olds had voted in the same percentage as the rest of the population, there would have been 5.2 million more votes,” he said. “We would have had Hillary Clinton.”
“Your generation can own what happens in the next election,” he added. “They can change things dramatically if they show up and vote.”
In the months since Senator Bernie Sanders ended his campaign for president, progressive candidates have notched once-improbable primary victories against longtime Democratic incumbents. Each member of the so-called Squad, the group of progressive women of color in the House, will almost certainly return to Washington. The coronavirus pandemic has revitalized support nationwide for progressive policy proposals including “Medicare for all.”
In that time, Mr. Sanders has quietly faded back into Senate life. Aside from endorsing some fellow progressives down the ballot, he has largely kept his focus on the public health crisis. One of his latest initiatives was to introduce legislation that would provide “masks for all.”
On Monday, Mr. Sanders will address the Democratic National Convention and once again make his case for the progressive cause. Once again, he will deliver a speech as a losing candidate to rally his loyal followers behind another nominee.
But this is not 2016. While Mr. Sanders nominally lent his support to Hillary Clinton at this point four years ago, he never stopped arguing that he had been mistreated in the primary — that the election was rigged and the entire political system was, too — an air of grievance that his followers took with them to the convention floor.
That 2016 gathering was overshadowed by hacked emails from D.N.C. accounts showing party officials eager to help Mrs. Clinton and undercut Mr. Sanders — a revelation that left the party’s Clinton and Sanders wings deeply divided and confirmed the longstanding complaints of bias from the Vermont senator.
Mr. Sanders is still stubborn, still passionate and still convinced he would have made the best president. But this year, he also appears to be something else: at peace.