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Biden vows to lead America out of 'season of darkness'

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenMore than 300 military family members endorse Biden Five takeaways from the final Trump-Biden debate Biden: 'I would transition from the oil industry' MORE said he’d lead the country out of what he called a “season of darkness” and vowed to “draw on the best” of what America has to offer as he accepted the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday night, setting up a general election battle with President TrumpDonald John TrumpMore than 300 military family members endorse Biden Five takeaways from the final Trump-Biden debate Biden: 'I would transition from the oil industry' MORE in November.

In his speech, Biden blasted Trump as a president who has sowed chaos and division. He cast himself as the candidate who would unite Republicans and Democrats, while leading the country out of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic downturn and racial turmoil.

“The current president has cloaked American anger for far too long. Too much anger, too much division. Here and now, I give you my word – if you entrust me with the presidency, I’ll draw on the best of us, not the worst,” Biden said. “I’ll draw on the light, not the darkness. It’s time for us, for we the people to come together. And make no mistake, we can and will overcome this season of darkness in America. We’ll choose hope over fear, facts over fiction, fairness over privilege.”

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The speech drew praise from commentators and news anchors.

CNN’s Jake TapperJacob (Jake) Paul TapperNY Times slammed for glowing Farrakhan op-ed: 'You would think he was a gentleman' Democrats condemn Trump's rhetoric against Michigan governor as allies defend rally Illinois governor blames Trump's allies for state's wrong direction on coronavirus MORE said it was “one of the best, if not the best” that he’s seen Biden give in his career, while Fox News's Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceFive takeaways from the final Trump-Biden debate Chris Wallace says he was 'jealous' of moderator watching final debate between Trump and Biden Shift in tone dominates at final Trump-Biden clash MORE called the speech "enormously effective."

Brit Hume, also of Fox News, said: “All in all a good speech. Forcibly delivered and what I am sure will give him a boost."

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Biden spoke from the mostly empty Chase Center in Wilmington, Del., in front of about two dozen reporters. He stood at a lectern emblazoned with “D20” in front of 16 American flags.

The Democratic National Convention has featured testimony from Republicans who have turned against Trump, and in his speech, Biden appealed directly to those who do not share his political views.

“While I’ll be a Democratic candidate, I’ll be an American president,” Biden said. “I’ll work hard for those who support me, and just as hard as for those who didn’t support me. That’s the job of a president, to represent all of us, not just our base or our party.”

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“America isn’t just a clashing interest of red states and blue states,” he added. “We’re so much bigger than that. So much better than that.”

After Biden spoke, the convention feed cut to images of people celebrating in the streets in front of TVs streaming the speech. They waved American flags as fireworks went off.

Biden was joined on stage by his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, and his running mate, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden face off for last time on the debate stage Obama says he voted by mail: 'It's not as tough as a lot of folks think' Clean energy opportunities in a time of crisis MORE (D-Calif.).

For Biden, becoming the Democratic presidential nominee is the culmination of a decades-long political career that has taken him from the Senate to the White House, as vice president under former President Obama.

“Thank you Mr. President,” Biden said to Obama on Thursday night. “You were a great president, a president our children could and did look up to. No one is going to say that about the current occupant of the White House.”

Biden’s path to the Democratic nomination has also been defined by personal tragedy, namely the loss of his first wife and young daughter to a car crash in the early 1970s and then the death of his son Beau Biden, who died from brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46.

“I have some idea how it feels to lose someone you love,” Biden said on Thursday. “I know how mean and cruel and unfair life can be sometimes.”

The former vice president was unsparing in his criticism of Trump, saying the nation is at a crossroads.

“We can choose a path of becoming angrier, less hopeful and more divided, a path of shadow and suspicion, or we can choose a different path and together take this chance to heal, to reform and unite,” Biden said. “A path of hope and light.”

The Democratic nominee made Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic central to his pitch, saying that if elected he would do everything in his power to eradicate the disease.

Biden said the the health and economic tolls from the virus were made worse by Trump’s incompetent response.

“Judge this president on the facts,” Biden said. “Five million Americans infected by COVID-19. More than 170,000 Americans have died. By far the worst performance of any nation on earth… if he’s reelected, you know what will happen. Cases and deaths will remain far too high.”

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The Trump campaign blasted back, accusing Biden of becoming a “pawn of the radical leftists” who would raise taxes, force a government takeover of health care, and kill energy jobs through excessive regulations.

“Joe Biden is a twice-failed candidate for president and is, without question, a far worse candidate the third time around,” said Tim Murtaugh, spokesman for the Trump campaign.

Biden prepared for his address Thursday with family, longtime advisers including chief strategist Mike Donilon, speechwriters Vinay Reddy and Carlyn Reichel, and even presidential historian Jon Meacham, who recently penned the book “The Soul of America” and also had a speaking role at the convention.

Biden was introduced by his children Ashley Biden and Hunter Biden, and a video of Beau Biden introducing his father at the 2012 Democratic convention.

The campaign also played a new video touting Biden’s past efforts to reach across the aisle and work with Republicans. The video told the story about how as vice president he worked with Republican lawmakers on an economic rescue package following the 2008 financial crisis.

Biden spent the day leading up to the convention at his home in Delaware with his grandchildren. In a convention video, Biden’s four granddaughters told the story about the family meeting that led to him launching his White House bid.

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The night’s programming also featured an extended Zoom discussion among Biden’s rivals from the 2020 primary, including Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden defends his health plan from Trump attacks Progressives blast Biden plan to form panel on Supreme Court reform Sanders: Progressives will work to 'rally the American people' if Biden wins MORE (I-Vt.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden defends his health plan from Trump attacks Progressives blast Biden plan to form panel on Supreme Court reform Biden endorses Texas Democratic House candidate Julie Oliver MORE (D-Mass.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Obama endorses Espy in Mississippi Senate race Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority MORE (D-N.J.) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharDurbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing MORE (D-Minn.), talking about their admiration for Biden.

His acceptance speech comes one day after former President Obama, in an emotional address, warned voters about the dangers of a second Trump term.

"This administration has shown it will tear our democracy down if that's what it takes to win," Obama said.

In contrast, Obama -- who awarded Biden the Medal of Freedom as president -- tried to portray a sympathetic partner in the White House.

"Joe is a man who learned early on to treat every person he meets with respect and dignity, living by the words his parents taught him: No one's better than you, Joe, but you're better than nobody,” Obama said. “That empathy, that decency, the belief that everybody counts. That's who Joe is."

Biden is hoping for a bounce coming out of the convention, although some Democrats are skeptical he’ll get one due to the virtual format.

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In the coming weeks, the Democratic nominee plans to build upon the message of the last four days, which told the story of his empathy and compassion. Allies close to him think that narrative meets the moments of where the nation is now.

"I think we've done a good job explaining who he is," said one Biden ally close to the campaign. "That's what the number one goal was all along."

Updated at 11:59 p.m.