COMMENT: Buried amid the boring political speeches of the Democratic convention's first day were three unmissable danger signs for the incumbent President, writes Sam Clench of news.com.au.
The first day of the Democratic National Convention was, in most ways, exactly what we have come to expect and dread from this peculiar genre of political event – a procession of increasingly mundane politicians delivering rote, uninspired speeches.
As someone who is pretty much contractually obliged to spend the dwindling years of my life watching these things, I must confess I was disappointed.
The circumstances of this year's convention, with the coronavirus forcing it into a new digital format, could have prompted the Democratic Party to streamline proceedings and cut out – how do I put this delicately? – all the boring, unnecessary people.
Alas, no. Many, many minutes were spent giving a platform to the likes of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has spent the past several months absolving himself of blame for his disastrous coronavirus missteps by pointing to President Donald Trump's even worse record on the pandemic.
"For all the pain and all the tears, our way worked. And it was beautiful," Cuomo told the convention's prime time audience.
Beautiful. Thirty-three thousand people are dead in New York, and there have been more than 450,000 infections – several thousand of which could have been prevented if Cuomo had acted earlier to contain the virus instead of insisting "the seasonal flu was a graver worry".
In a normal election year, the presence of a cheering crowd in front of Cuomo would have created the illusion that his words were less absurd. When everyone is speaking remotely and without an audience, that illusion melts away.
Trump clearly noticed. You can tell, because our open window into the US President's brain, otherwise known as his Twitter feed, quickly became a deluge of tweets and retweets slamming the Governor.
The thing Trump and the Democratic Party both failed to realise is that Cuomo is entirely irrelevant to the upcoming presidential election.
Trump is running for re-election against Joe Biden. Why, then, would he waste his time obsessing over Andrew Cuomo? It's as pointless as him venting about Hillary Clinton's emails again – which I'm sure he will when she addresses the convention on Thursday AEST.
Similarly, the Democratic convention is supposed to be a showcase for the party's presidential nominee. Why, then, would it waste time broadcasting a self-congratulatory lecture from a guy who won't even face his state's voters again until 2022?
I can understand why every mildly famous politician in the country gets a turn with the microphone in a regular year, when there are four long days of programming and nowhere near enough interesting people to fill them.
This year's shortened format was the perfect excuse to ditch the more superfluous speeches, and it's baffling to me that the Democrats didn't use it.
Otherwise, day one actually wasn't all bad for them. Far from it. Nestled between the boring bits were some genuine danger signs for Trump.
One of those signs is the fact that Biden has successfully built a support base uniting Senator Bernie Sanders, a left-wing democratic socialist, with former Ohio governor John Kasich, a fiscally conservative Republican.
This pairing of curious bedfellows is something Clinton failed to achieve in 2016.
Sanders was the runner-up for the Democratic nomination four years ago, just as he is this time. He was widely criticised within the party for doing too little to help Clinton win over his supporters, 12 per cent of whom ended up voting for Trump.
That was a high enough number to be a decisive factor in the three key states that made Trump President – Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, Kasich refused to vote for Clinton in 2016, even though he was vehemently opposed to Trump.
Having run unsuccessfully against Trump for his own party's nomination, Kasich chose to write in the name of a fellow Republican, the late senator John McCain, instead of casting his ballot for the Democratic nominee.
Not this time. Kasich remains a member of the Republican Party, but yesterday he appeared as one of the speakers at the Democratic convention, urging Americans to vote for Biden.
"I'm a lifelong Republican, but that attachment holds second place to my responsibility to my country. That's why I've chosen to appear at this convention," he said.
"I've known Joe Biden for 30 years. I know his story of profound grief that has so deeply affected his character. I know Joe is a good man, a man of faith, a unifier. Someone who understands the hopes and dreams of the common man and the common woman.
"Yes, there are areas where Joe and I absolutely disagree. But that's OK. Because that's America. Because whatever our differences, we respect one another as human beings.
"No one person or party has all the answers. But what we do know is that we can do better."
A few minutes later, Sanders directly addressed his supporters and told them, in no uncertain terms, to fall in line behind Biden.
"My friends, I say to you, to everyone who supported other candidates in the primary, and to those who may have voted for Donald Trump in the last election – the future of our democracy is at stake," he said.
"The future of our economy is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake. We must come together, defeat Donald Trump, and elect Joe Biden.
"The price of failure is just too great to imagine."
These two moments, taken together, represent something we never saw last time, when Clinton simultaneously failed to win over both the left wing, led by Sanders, and moderate Republicans like Kasich.
Biden appears to have broader support from each of those groups.
There were two more danger signs for the President, which I promise I'll cover less longwindedly.
First, former first lady Michelle Obama demonstrated just how easy it will be for the Biden campaign to use Trump's own words against him.
"Let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong President for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head," Obama said in her keynote speech.
"He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is."
Those last five words were a reference to Trump's recent interview with Australian reporter Jonathan Swan, during which the President brushed off America's rapidly mounting coronavirus death toll.
"I think it's under control," Trump said of the virus.
"How? A thousand Americans are dying a day," Swan told him.
"They are dying. That's true. And it is what it is," said Trump.
That sound bite was perfect fodder for Obama's sass, and it will work just as well in a negative campaign ad. It's one of countless examples that have come out of Trump's mouth in the past three-and-a-half years.
Finally, we must mention the blistering speech delivered by Kristin Urquiza – a woman who has no political title, but made a more significant contribution to the convention than any of the Democratic Party's supposed rising stars.
Urquiza's father, Mark Anthony, died from the coronavirus in June. He was a supporter of Trump until the very end of his life, when he told his daughter he felt the President had "betrayed" him.
"He had faith in Donald Trump. He voted for him, listened to him, believed him and his mouthpieces when they said that coronavirus was under control and going to disappear. That it was OK to end social distancing rules before it was safe. That if you had no underlying health conditions, you'd probably be fine," said Urquiza.
"So in late May, after the stay-at-home order was lifted in Arizona, my dad went to a karaoke bar with his friends. A few weeks later, he was put on a ventilator, and after five agonising days, he died alone in the ICU, with a nurse holding his hand.
"My dad was a healthy 65-year-old. His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that, he paid with his life.
"One of the last things my father said to me is that he felt betrayed by the likes of Donald Trump. And so when I cast my vote for Joe Biden, I will do it for my dad."
There is nothing Trump can do to escape the fact that 174,000 Americans have died on his watch. No attack he launches against Biden will fix it.
Whatever the President has planned for the Republican convention next week, it had better be mind-blowingly good.