Mr. Clinton was thrilled to be asked to appear because there was some question as to whether he would be invited to do so, according to Democratic officials who spoke to him in recent weeks. Yet his prerecorded remarks, which aired before the convention’s prime viewing hour, represented a remarkable comedown for a once-towering political figure whose 2012 speech on behalf of Mr. Obama was hailed as a triumph of political oratory.
Still, Mr. Clinton was able to offer a warm character reference for Mr. Biden, with whom he has enjoyed a mostly genial political relationship for decades. In his limited time, Mr. Clinton delivered a scathing indictment of Mr. Trump, deeming him a “buck never stops there” president who spends “hours a day watching TV and zapping people on social media.” By contrast, Mr. Clinton said, Mr. Biden “would be a go-to-work president.” The choice, said the former president, was between a president who will continue to “blame, bully and belittle” and one who, borrowing Mr. Biden’s slogan, will “build back better.”
Tuesday’s lineup did not, however, only tilt back to the past. There were also a number of speakers who prompted considerable thinking about tomorrow, to borrow the anthem of Mr. Clinton’s 1992 campaign.
Nowhere was that more evident than in the juxtaposition of two New Yorkers who are both on the rise, and perhaps on a collision course.
Senator Chuck Schumer, who is all but certain to become majority leader should Democrats take control of the chamber this fall, spoke shortly before Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, the 30-year-old champion of the party’s left wing, whom some progressives are urging to challenge Mr. Schumer in 2022.
Mr. Schumer used his speech to issue a call to arms for Democrats to capture not just the presidency but also the Senate, and to present a common political front despite their internal differences. Speaking from New York City with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop, Mr. Schumer promised a list of specific initiatives from a Democratic-led government, including legislation to protect voting rights and to address the cost of health care, and efforts to “restore a Supreme Court that looks out for people, not corporations.”