Former Vice President Joe Biden officially became the Democratic Party's 2020 presidential nominee Tuesday night after an unconventional roll call vote of party delegates conducted virtually from landmarks across the country.
Once he amassed the votes, a camera appeared on Biden in Delaware, where after a brief pause, he celebrated the moment with his wife Jill and bundles of red, white and blue balloons as the family popped streamers. Clapping broke out from Democrats appearing on camera from their living rooms, as the song "Celebration" played.
"Thank you very, very much from the bottom of my heart," Biden said. "Thank you. Thank you."
Former President Barack Obama, his two-time running mate, congratulated Biden in a tweet afterward, saying, "I'm proud of you."
Instead of the traditional loud, celebratory tally of votes from the floor of the Democratic National Convention, this year thousands of delegates had to stay home because of the coronavirus pandemic. They shared their support for Biden over video feeds from a range of backdrops — farms, beaches, an Amtrak station, an art studio and a fire station — telling personal stories of how a Biden presidency would build back America "better."
Biden's nomination comes as a succession of convention speakers have been working to draw a clear contrast between him and President Donald Trump, not just on policy but on humanity.
Speakers pointed to what they described as Biden's decency and sense of empathy while portraying Trump as lacking those qualities — repeatedly highlighting the president's remark that "It is what it is" when asked about the coronavirus death toll.
Biden's path to the White House formally kicked off with Jacquelyn Brittany, a New York Times security guard who was caught in a viral video saying "I Love You" to Biden. She formally nominated the former vice president for the job. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., seconded the nomination.
Bob King, former president of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, nominated Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., which is customary for the Democratic primary runner-up. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., seconded the nomination for her mentor, saying that Sanders "organized a historic grassroots campaign to reclaim our democracy."
The 2020 roll call wasn't the raucous affair from years past, when enthusiastic state leaders gave laudatory speeches from the convention floor announcing how their state delegates voted. But these stories were personal and local, touting Democratic Party priorities like mail-in voting, fighting for racial justice, immigrant rights, ending gun violence, protecting the environment, reviving the auto industry and more.
"It's Joe time!," declared Scheena Iyande Tannis, a registered nurse in New York, who announced the state's delegates during the roll call vote.
The vote took place virtually throughout all 57 states and territories, with various voters, parents, teachers, politicians and small business owners announcing how their states cast their votes, based on the primary election results. The 30-minute shout-out across America featured former primary opponents to Biden in the presidential election.
Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg announced Indiana's delegate vote. Sen. Amy Klobuchar touted Biden's ability to build bridges in Minnesota's roll call. Rep. Tim Ryan announced the delegates from Ohio, while Sanders and his wife, Jane, were on camera from Vermont.
But unlike 2016, Sanders didn't make the official motion to make Biden the Democratic nominee in the name of party unity.
Four years ago, then-Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, nominated Sanders at the convention in Philadelphia, marveling how a "somewhat frumpy and maybe even sometimes grumpy 70-year-old guy could become the voice for millions." Then, after the roll call vote, Sanders, surrounded by delegates from Vermont, rose to suspend the procedural rules and nominate Hillary Clinton.
Eight years earlier, it was Clinton who made a similar gesture from the convention floor to officially nominate Barack Obama by acclamation to be the 2008 presidential candidate after her tough loss to the eventual two-term president.
But like everything else this year, the 2020 version was different.
"These are not conventional times," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said in kicking off Day Two of the convention, which would have brought huge crowds to his city if not for the COVID-19 crisis. "And as a result, as we all know, this is not a conventional convention."
In a series of speeches throughout the night, speakers sought to paint Trump as an inept leader and Biden as the steady and decent hand America needs.
Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, said Biden will restore the "moral compass" and ripped Trump as “a president of cowardice.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., hit Trump for his coronavirus response and for the treatment of protesters. “America, Donald Trump has quit on you," Schumer said before the Statue of Liberty.
Former president Jimmy Carter and wife Rosalynn addressed the convention in a voice message praising Biden’s character and dignity. “He is the right person for this moment,” Carter said.
Former President Bill Clinton blasted Trump for failing to take responsibility for the coronavirus response.
"You know what Donald Trump will do with four more years: blame, bully, and belittle," Clinton said. "And you know what Joe Biden will do: build back better."
The Trump campaign and Republican National Committee, ahead of their convention next week, hit right back at the night's speakers.
"Pres. Trump has spent his presidency righting the wrongs of Bill Clinton & Joe Biden’s record of failed policies," the RNC tweeted.
Kayleigh McEnany, White House press secretary, mocked the convention format as a metaphor, ripping "transitionless doldrums of unenthusiastic Biden surrogates, very emblematic of his base."
Parents were also featured Tuesday night to draw attention to some of Biden's policy priorities. Gun safety activist Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed in the 2018 Parkland high school massacre, announced the Florida delegate votes.
Gold star father Khizr Khan talked of the 2017 racial violence in Charlottesville in announcing the Virginia delegate votes. And in Wyoming, Judy and Dennis Shepard touted Biden’s leadership to stop hate crimes against LGBTQ Americans in the wake of their son Matthew’s 1998 murder.
Biden will make his formal acceptance speech on Thursday.