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Week In Politics: Key Takeaways From The Democratic National Convention

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The Democratic convention that ended last night made history not only because the party nominated a woman of color, Kamala Harris, to be vice president - also because it was the first ever entirely virtual nominating convention. Here's how the presidential nominee Joe Biden framed the choice voters face in November.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE BIDEN: Character is on the ballot. Compassion is on the ballot. Decency, science, democracy - they're all on the ballot. Who we are as a nation, what we stand for, most importantly who we want to be - that's all on the ballot.

SHAPIRO: Next week it will be Republicans' turn, so to look at what the Democrats accomplished and what the GOP needs to do, we are joined by two political strategists. Maria Cardona was a senior adviser and spokesperson for Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign and for President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign. Good to have you here.

MARIA CARDONA: Thank you, Ari. Great to be here.

SHAPIRO: And Antonia Ferrier has held several top communications roles with congressional Republicans, most recently Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Thank you for joining us.

ANTONIA FERRIER: Thank you so much, Ari.

SHAPIRO: To start, will each of you give us a specific rose and thorn from this week's Democratic convention? Just briefly name a moment that will stay with you and something that you think maybe didn't work so well. Maria, do you want to start?

CARDONA: Sure. Ari, I don't know. I think I have a plethora of riches to choose from. I think there were...

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

CARDONA: Seriously. There were, I think, incredibly compelling moments. Let me just give you two that really stood out. The roll call, I think, was really incredible. I don't think we're going to go back to doing a roll call on the stage the way that we normally do even if we go back to doing conventions in person.

SHAPIRO: This is when we traveled all over the country - the Rhode Island calamari...

CARDONA: Yes.

SHAPIRO: ...The Mariana Islands. Yeah.

CARDONA: Yes, exactly. I think it was an incredible display of the geographic beauty of our country as well as the beautiful diversity of our party and the United States of America and who we are as a people.

SHAPIRO: And tell us one place you think your party could have maybe done a little bit better on this front.

CARDONA: You know, I think that maybe some of the technical issues and maybe some of the awkward transitions - but again, I think that people will forgive us for that given that this was such an unprecedented moment. And frankly, I don't think anyone, myself included, really knew what to expect. And so I have heard from people all over the spectrum, including my Republican friends, who were saying what a great job the DNC did and explained...

SHAPIRO: Well, fortunately...

CARDONA: ...What we needed to do differently (ph).

SHAPIRO: We have one of your Republican friends on the line with us. Antonia, will you can give us something the Democrats did that you admired and something where you think they fell short?

FERRIER: Well, I got to tell you I think they did a great job as well, all things considered. This has never been done before, and so my hat's off to my Democrat friends for really doing a great job with this convention. I think conventions moving forward will be dramatically changed post-the-COVID-pandemic-that-we're-in (ph), so my hat's off to them. And, yeah, I think there were some technical glitches. But again, given the magnitude of the feat, I think that overall, they did a very good job. They showcased unity. And that roll call - you're 100% right. It was rather an incredible moment to watch.

You know, if I were to critique - but it's - but I think this is more of a setup to what we'll see next week - is there was not a lot of substance there in terms of some of the policies. But, you know, I don't know if I would have done that if I were them, either. And I think that's what Republicans will hit next week.

SHAPIRO: OK, so this is a good setup for the task facing Republicans when they hold their convention. We heard that list from Joe Biden of - character is on the ballot, compassion, decency, science, democracy. Antonia, if Republicans were to write a similar list, what would be on it? What is on the ballot according to the GOP?

FERRIER: Well, I would say it's all the cost and consequences of a Biden-Warren-Ocasio-Cortez ticket. This is the way I would frame it. I think they're going to frame it as that Joe Biden may be a nice guy, but he is - his strings are being pulled by the liberal left of the Democratic Party. And there are going to be real costs and consequences to average American families across the country.

And I would go through and they will go through the - what the - some of the Democrats have put forward and what that's going to mean to American families who are struggling. And they will also highlight some of the key accomplishments of the Trump administration to highlight what has been done. So it'll be very much, I would say, a contrast very much in terms of policies and cost versus what the Democrats tried to showcase, which is unity and integrity.

SHAPIRO: Maria, how would you frame that? I mean, what are you looking for next week?

CARDONA: I frankly agree with Antonia. They are going to throw those - what I think are tired tropes of the radical leftists. Be careful of the socialists - that somehow, they think that this will stick, but it won't - that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are puppets of AOC and Bernie Sanders. And that's just ridiculous. Joe Biden is the one who won the nomination by a lot. Bernie Sanders is supporting him a hundred percent. AOC understands the existential crisis that we are in with Donald Trump as president, and she's going to do everything she can to support and get Joe Biden elected. It's Joe Biden's agenda, nobody else's.

And he is the one who spoke last night very eloquently about the stark choice when you have a president of the United States that has presided over a pandemic that has cost 175,000 American lives and could get to 200,000 deaths before the fall is over. And he has done nothing yet to give a national plan on how to crush this virus, so many families feel that the virus has crushed them. There's no competition there.

SHAPIRO: I want to jump in just with our last minute. These are obviously useful for turnout and for energizing the base. Do either of you believe that there are actually voters who will be persuaded by what they hear during either of these conventions? Antonia, briefly?

FERRIER: No. I generally think that party conventions tend to be about rallying the troops and rallying folks to turn out and get the vote out in the fall. They're all about messaging in that way and the big matters there. I do think the Democrats did a good job trying to sort of bring Republicans into the fold with some of the Republican speakers that they had. And I think that Donald Trump will try with some of the union support that he has gotten on some of his policies, in particular the rewrite of NAFTA.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. And let me just briefly give Maria the last word here. Maria?

CARDONA: Yes. I think that that we did a great job of not just including our base but including independents who are...

SHAPIRO: OK.

CARDONA: ...Fed up with this president as well as Republicans.

SHAPIRO: That's Maria Cardona, longtime Democratic strategist with the Dewey Square Group, and Antonia Ferrier, a veteran Republican communications strategist. Thanks to you both.

CARDONA: Thank you, Ari.

FERRIER: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF OSKAR SCHUSTER'S "FJARLAEGUR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.