Former President Barack Obama, typically known for his cool, even demeanor, delivered an unusually passionate, caustic attack on his successor in the White House as he described the stakes of the election in stark and chilling terms. This presidential contest, Mr. Obama made clear, is not about typical partisan warfare — it is about the continuation of American democracy as we know it, he argued, issuing what many Democrats saw as a stirring call to action.
“Do not let them take away your power,” he urged. “Do not let them take away your democracy.”
Michelle Obama, the former first lady, added her own lacerating attack, calling Mr. Trump “the wrong president for our country” and urging Americans to make plans to vote.
The speeches were clear distillations of the Democratic argument that this campaign is a national emergency, and Mr. Obama, Mr. Biden’s most important validator, cast his vice president as a steady and decent leader for dire times.
Biden won the nomination — and for now, the messaging battle in his party.
From the very beginning of Mr. Biden’s 2020 campaign, his message has been simple: America’s deepest problems cannot begin to be resolved until Mr. Trump is defeated, and Mr. Biden — for reasons of experience, character and conciliatory instincts — is just the person to beat him. It was a pitch rooted more in political calculus rather than in sweeping policy ambitions or a radically new vision for the nation, and many Democrats questioned whether that argument would be sufficiently inspiring.
But by this week, it was clear that even Mr. Biden’s ideological opposites within the party — including Senator Bernie Sanders, the avatar of the progressive movement — had embraced Mr. Biden’s case for focusing on building the biggest possible coalition to beat Mr. Trump, policy differences aside. In a speech that pleased a broad cross-section of the Democratic Party, Mr. Sanders cast the election as a battle against authoritarianism and pledged that he would “work with progressives, with moderates, and, yes, with conservatives to preserve this nation” — in keeping with Mr. Biden’s framing of the election as a unique crisis.