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Biden, Harris tear into Trump in first joint appearance
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) appeared for the first time as running mates at an event Wednesday in Delaware, where they vowed to defeat President Trump, lead the nation out of the coronavirus and economic crises, and repair the racial divisions that have roiled the country.
Biden and Harris, dressed in royal blue suits inside a high school gymnasium in Wilmington, became emotional in separate speeches recounting how they had first been introduced by Biden's son Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 45.
The candidates leaned into the historic nature of Harris's vice presidential candidacy. If elected, Harris will be the first woman and first person of color to be vice president.
And they offered blistering critiques of Trump's racial politics, anchoring their attacks to the three-year anniversary of the deadly "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Va.
Biden praised Harris, the child of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, for taking on the big banks during the Great Recession and the gun and oil lobbies as attorney general of California.
He pointed to her work on the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees, saying she had led the effort to hold the Trump administration accountable with her investigations and pointed questioning of officials.
And Biden, who at 77 would be the oldest ever to be sworn in for a first term as president, cast Harris as someone who is ready to step in and lead from the start.
"She knows how to govern, how to make the hard calls, and she's ready to do the job on day one," Biden said.
Harris beamed as she remembered receiving the phone call in which Biden offered her the vice presidential slot.
She also became emotional as she recounted her close relationship with the younger Biden, who was attorney general of Delaware when she was attorney general of California.
Harris was unsparing in her attacks against Trump, accusing him of stoking racial divisions and saying he could have prevented scores of coronavirus deaths.
"The president's mismanagement of the pandemic has plunged us into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and we're experiencing a moral reckoning with racism and systemic injustice that has brought a new coalition of conscience to the streets of our country," Harris said. "America is crying out for leadership."
"[Trump] inherited the longest economic expansion in history from Barack Obama and Joe Biden," she added. "Then, like everything else he inherited, he ran it straight into the ground."
The event was dampened by the coronavirus pandemic.
In normal times, the candidates would have held a massive rally in front of thousands of supporters.
Instead, Biden and Harris spoke separately and at a distance from each other inside the gymnasium of Alexis I. duPont High School in Wilmington, near Biden's home.
The power had gone out beforehand, briefly delaying the event.
There were several hundred supporters gathered outside, but only a handful of reporters were allowed inside to witness the speeches in person.
Afterward, Biden's wife, Jill Biden, and Harris's husband, Douglas Emhoff, a lawyer, came out and waved to reporters.
But Biden said Harris's nomination had been a resounding success among grassroots Democrats. He said the campaign had its best fundraising day of the cycle on Tuesday, doubling its previous record.
The former vice president sold Harris as a history-making figure, noting that she would be the first Black woman to ever hold the second-highest political office in the land.
"This morning, all across the nation, little black and brown girls who so often feel overlooked may just see themselves for the first time in a new way as the stuff of presidents and vice presidents," Biden said.
Harris played up her experience as district attorney of San Francisco and attorney general of California, saying those positions have prepared her to prosecute the case against Trump.
"The case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence is open and shut," Harris said.
Biden blasted Trump for attacking Harris. The president has called Harris "nasty" and his campaign has cast her as a left-wing fanatic.
"Is anyone surprised Donald Trump has a problem with strong women?" Biden said.
Biden and Harris both blamed Trump for the racial unrest that has disturbed the country following the police killing of George Floyd.
Biden referred to Trump's response to the Charlottesville rally and vowed to prioritize racial justice as president.
"Remember what it felt like to see those neo-Nazis - close your eyes - and those Klansmen, white supremacists, coming out of fields, carrying lighted torches, faces contorted, bulging veins, pouring into the streets of a historic American city, spewing the same anti-Semitic bile we heard in Hitler's Germany the '30s?" Biden said.
Biden and Harris will accept their nominations at the Democratic National Convention next week. Harris will speak on Wednesday, along with former President Obama. Biden will close out the event with a speech on Thursday.