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DNC 2020: Bill Clinton, AOC, Jill Biden and what to watch for on Night 2

The online event also features an unusual keynote address to be delivered by 17 (!) Democrats.
Jill Biden, former President Bill Clinton and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., will be among the speakers on the second night of the virtual Democratic National Convention.
Jill Biden, former President Bill Clinton and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., will be among the speakers on the second night of the virtual Democratic National Convention. Elise Wrabetz / NBC News

WASHINGTON — The second night of the all-virtual Democratic National Convention will feature a twist on the old convention classics as well as an address by former President Bill Clinton, who has delivered memorable speeches in years past.

Tuesday night's program, which will be less jampacked than Monday's, is to be capped by what are likely to be deeply personal remarks by Jill Biden, a lifelong teacher who is the wife of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

It will also include a virtual roll call of the states, a convention tradition in which representatives from all 57 states and territories offer trivia and brief tidbits of pride about their home states, and speeches from former Secretary of State John Kerry and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Here are five things to watch:

1. AOC

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's star has only grown since her upset victory over a powerful Democratic lawmaker two years ago, much to the delight of her 8.2 million Twitter followers and the disdain of her critics.

But the convention organizers' decision to give the Ocasio-Cortez, 30, of New York, only a minute of speaking time has rankled activists — and Ocasio-Cortez herself — who note that Republicans had more time to speak Monday.

In addition to being a progressive icon, Ocasio-Cortez is one of the few high-profile Latinas in her party. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, who gave the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic convention and ran for president this year, has been notably absent from the speakers list in 2020, leading some Hispanic Democrats to say they feel "unseen."

2. Bill Clinton

The former president has spoken at a lot of Democratic conventions. The first time, in 1988, he rambled on so long that the audience booed him until he said, "In closing..." which sent up a cheer.

That didn't stop Clinton from becoming the party's most effective cheerleader, winning two presidential campaigns and being credited with a key assist in helping President Barack Obama win re-election with a blockbuster speech at the 2012 convention. Four years later, he spoke about his relationship with his wife, Hillary Clinton, who was accepting the nomination herself.

But now, the Democratic Party has moved on from Clinton, and his brand of "third-way" centrism, triangulation on race and an affair with an intern look very different in a 2020 light. Clinton has receded from the political spotlight since his wife's loss in 2016, and this will be a chance for him to try to reframe his legacy for a more modern audience.

3. An unconventional keynote

The keynote address at political conventions is a traditional way for the party to highlight one of its up-and-coming stars. In 2004, an Illinois state senator named Barack Obama wowed the audience and put himself on the national map.

This year, with the coronavirus crisis forcing organizers to rethink everything, Democrats chose to instead highlight 17 rising stars who will together deliver some kind of multifaceted keynote. The best known of the group is Stacey Abrams, the former minority leader of the Georgia state House who ran for governor and was a possible Biden running mate.

Other keynote speakers include Rep. Colin Allred of Texas, a former NFL player who flipped a Republican district in Dallas in 2018; Yvanna Cancela, the first Latina in the Nevada state Senate; Randall Woodfin, the youngest mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, in over a century; and Rep. Conor Lamb, who won a 2017 special election in western Pennsylvania that gave Democrats hope after Trump's victory.

4. Jill Biden

Joe Biden's wife was the first second lady in history to hold a job while her husband served as vice president, and she has continued to teach at a community college in Northern Virginia.

Biden is expected to speak about her husband's tragic personal story and their relationship. Joe Biden's first wife, Neilia, and their baby daughter, Naomi, were killed in a car accident just weeks after Biden won his first Senate campaign. Biden later married Jill, whom he credits with bringing him back from the brink, and their relationship has been a major part of his personal story.

5. Ratings?

Political conventions are important because, traditionally, a ton of voters watch. It's a rare moment when a large part of the country tunes in to see the same political event. An estimated 30 million people watched the final night of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, for instance.

But the coronavirus pandemic has upended everything, so numbers likely to be released Tuesday about Monday night's program will be the first indication of the potential impact of the online-only format.

Did more people watch because they're stuck at home? Or did people tune out because the format didn't work for them? Or maybe they're just tired of the news? As former first lady Michelle Obama put it Monday, "A lot of folks are reluctant to tune into a political convention right now or to politics in general."