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Mission accomplished: After virtual convention, Democrats are united against Trump

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Joe Biden
Joe Biden accepts the Democratic Party nomination for US president during the last day of the Democratic National Convention at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del. on Aug. 20, 2020.Olivier Douliery / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The first virtual national political convention couldn’t have gone better for the Democrats.

Introduce a new generation of elected Democratic leaders to the American public? Check.

Tell Joe Biden’s life story — from overcoming his stutter to his family tragedies? Yup.

Deflect GOP attacks — like that Biden is beholden to the Bernie Sanders left and that Biden is so declined that he can’t deliver a speech to the public? Done. (In fact, for those of us who’ve watched Biden plenty over the past decade, last night was one of the best speeches he’s ever delivered.

And unite a party from progressives to moderates to disaffected Republicans? Mission accomplished.

It’s that last objective — party unity — that’s maybe the biggest difference between this past week’s virtual convention and the Democratic convention four years ago, when the WikiLeaks disclosures, the resignation of the DNC chair, and the Hillary-versus-Bernie delegate skirmishes marred that Philly convention.

Democrats of all stripes are ready for battle against President Trump. And the Democratic operatives who helped orchestrate this not-easy-to-produce convention, including Stephanie Cutter, deserve lots of credit.

Of course, the pandemic and virtual nature of the convention helped sweep any kind of dissent under the rug. It’s easy to imagine — under normal circumstances and during an ordinary convention — that upset Sanders delegates would have generated headlines, and that rogue delegates would have booed speakers like John Kasich and Michael Bloomberg.

Indeed, the entire virtual campaign so far has benefitted Biden, masking his weaknesses a candidate (age, gaffes on the stump) and emphasizing his strengths (his name ID, his empathy and his experience).

Reminder: Winning the convention doesn’t win you the election

Yet as we learned four years ago, the party that has the better-run convention doesn’t always win the presidential election.

While the 2016 Democratic convention featured disunity between Clinton and Sanders delegates, the GOP’s gathering was much worse — remember the plagiarism charges, the contentious floor fight and Ted Cruz’s non-endorsement?

But Trump and the GOP won the election.

Conventions, however, tell us a lot about how a candidate might govern. And that disorganization and chaos we saw four years ago at the GOP convention in Cleveland certainly gave us a window in how Team Trump would run the White House.

Pressure is on for next week’s GOP convention

Also, the political party that goes second – not first – usually benefits, because it gets to make the last impression.

But the pressure is now on the Republicans to match what Democrats did, with much less preparation time (given Trump’s earlier insistence on holding an in-person convention, which he eventually had to scrap).

How do they handle the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing?

How does Trump speak to the 70 percent of Americans who think the country is headed in the wrong direction, and the 80 percent who think things are out of control?

And how does the president turn the election from a referendum on him to a choice?

We’ll find out next week.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

5,600,920: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 54,688 more than yesterday morning.)

175,422: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,334 more than yesterday morning.)

69.58 million: The number of coronavirus tests administered in the U.S., according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

200 million: The number of doses of flu vaccine being prepared in the United States, as manufacturers boost production by about 15 percent.

7: The number of coronavirus cases so far that have been traced to the Sturgis motorcycle rally.

Ad watch from Ben Kamisar

Remember the opaque group that meddled in the Kansas GOP Senate primary to boost Kris Kobach, the one linked to Democrats? Well, surprise, surprise — top Democratic groups were behind it.

Politico reported that Sunflower State, which spent millions to boost Kobach and bury Roger Marshall, was bankrolled primarily by Senate Majority PAC and the EMILY’s List super PAC, Women Vote!

The group’s Democratic links were pretty clear, and their strategy to boost the controversial Kobach over the establishment’s pick only underscored the belief that Democrats were behind the effort. But the hunch was proven right in Thursday’s Politico report, which included an on-the-record interview with Senate Majority PAC president J.B. Poersch.

Postal Problems

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t think there’s a problem with the Postal Service — but it’s a problem he’s going to take care of nonetheless. At least that’s what he told reporters yesterday:

“The post office is not in trouble. We're going to make sure that they are able to deliver our ballots on time,” McConnell said. He later added, “This is a non-existent problem, it's going to be taken care of.”

While McConnell’s view is in contradiction to what many others are concerned about, he does agree that one problem that isn’t getting fixed soon is coronavirus relief.

“I do think the environment is a lot more political now that was in March and April. You know we're only a couple months from the election, I think that's hampered it. I'm hoping we can get past that. But I can't predict today. I think we need another dose, I think we need it now. Or I wouldn't have recommend one .But at the moment we are at an impasse,” McConnell said.

The Lid: Message discipline

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at the framing of the Democratic convention — and the numbers that explain it.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

As always, if you missed last night, our live blog has you covered.

Don’t miss the appearance by Brayden Harrington, 13, who spoke about how Biden helped him overcome his stutter.

Here’s how the president responded to Biden’s speech.

The postal crisis is bigger and more urgent than just the election, experts say.

Kanye West won’t be on the ballot in Wisconsin.

Trump says he wants to use “sheriffs” as poll watchers on Election Day.

Trump’s refusal to condemn QAnon is getting some big pushback.

What’s with the big fight over a gold mine in Alaska?

Nancy Pelosi endorsed Joe Kennedy III over Ed Markey in the Massachusetts Senate race.