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Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden listen to his running mate, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, speak during their first press conference together in Wilmington, Del., on Aug. 12, 2020.OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have given a clear indication of the Democrats’ planned strategy to defeat President Donald Trump – casting the November election as a referendum on his administration’s management of the pandemic, the economy and race relations.

“We need more than a victory,” Ms. Harris, a U.S. Senator and former California attorney-general, said on Wednesday in her inaugural event as Mr. Biden’s vice-presidential candidate. “We need a mandate that proves that the past four years do not represent who we are, or who we aspire to be.”

The party’s nominating convention begins on Monday.

The joint Democratic ticket of Mr. Biden, 77, and Ms. Harris, 55, showcased a gender, generational and racial divide, emphasizing the two sides of the U.S. public in Mr. Biden’s upbringing in the white working class community of Scranton, Penn., and Ms. Harris’ background as the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants who met in Berkeley, Calif., during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The Biden campaign said it had raised US$26-million in the 24 hours after he announced his choice of running mate.

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The televised news conference in a high school gymnasium in Mr. Biden’s hometown of Wilmington, Del., also offered a look at a presidential campaign in the COVID-19 era. The two candidates arrived in face masks, did not embrace or shake hands, and stood at opposite ends of the room with their spouses as they waved to a small group of reporters.

Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris portrayed Mr. Trump as a failed leader who has diminished the country’s standing in the world.

“We’re at one of those inflection points,” Mr. Biden said. “A life-changing election for our nation. The choice we make this November is going to decide the future of America for a very, very long time.”

He promised that a Biden-Harris administration would have a ”comprehensive plan” to address the COVID-19 outbreak, which has infected more than five million people and contributed to nearly 165,000 deaths in the United States. “We can do this,” Mr. Biden said. “We just need a president and vice-president willing to lead and take responsibility.”

Mr. Biden has heavily emphasized his experience as Barack Obama’s vice president. Ms. Harris used the presidential spotlight to contrast the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic with the Obama administration’s efforts to curb a 2014 Ebola outbreak that killed two people in the United States.

“This virus has impacted almost every country, but there’s a reason it has hit America worse than any other advanced nation,” she said. “It’s because of Trump’s failure to take it seriously from the start.”

She accused Mr. Trump of mismanaging the U.S. economy, which has struggled as several states were forced to reimpose containment measures amid a new wave of cases this summer. Negotiations on a federal relief package that would extend unemployment benefits and offer new stimulus payments are stalled in Congress.

“He inherited the longest economic expansion in history from Barack Obama and Joe Biden and then, like everything else he’s inherited, he ran it straight into the ground,” she said. “This is what happens when we elect a guy who just isn’t up for the job. Our country ends up in tatters and so does our reputation around the world.”

The unveiling of the Democratic ticket also marked a historic first as Ms. Harris became the first Black woman and the first of South Asian descent to run for the vice-presidential nomination for a major U.S. political party.

Mr. Biden pointed to Ms. Harris’ relationship with his late son Beau as a major factor in his choice. The two worked together on negotiations with major financial institutions after the 2008 housing crisis, when Ms. Harris was California’s attorney-general and Beau Biden was her counterpart in Delaware.

But Mr. Biden also cast Ms. Harris as the best candidate to address a moment when the country faces a national reckoning over police brutality and racial injustice. “This morning all across the nation, little girls woke up – especially little Black and brown girls, who so often feel overlooked and undervalued in their communities,” he said. “Today, today just maybe they’re seeing themselves for the first time in a new way as the stuff of presidents and vice-presidents.”

He said that the televised event came on the third anniversary of a violent and deadly clash between protesters and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia – asking viewers to close their eyes and picture the violence. “Remember what it felt like to see those neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white supremacists coming out of the field carrying lighted torches?” he asked.

The Trump campaign released a statement saying that Mr. Trump had “totally condemned” the violence in Charlottesville. In an evening news conference, Mr. Trump contrasted Ms. Harris’ failed bid in Democratic presidential primaries against his own election in 2016. And he questioned her loyalty to Mr. Biden given that she had attacked him in televised Democratic debates last year. “There was nobody more insulting to Biden than she was,” he said. “And now all of a sudden she’s running to be vice president saying how wonderful he is.”

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