Socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich will bookend a spectrum of speakers set to open the coronavirus-delayed 2020 Democratic National Convention.
Monday’s keynote address will be delivered by former first lady Michelle Obama. It’s her first appearance on the 2020 campaign trail for this cycle’s presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris.
The former first lady’s return to the national political spotlight is eagerly anticipated by Democrats, many of whom hoped Biden would pick her as his No. 2. But it’s the juxtaposition of Sanders and Kasich in Monday night’s We the People-themed programming that caught the attention of many political observers.
For University of Akron professor David Cohen, Kasich wasn’t an unexpected choice to be included in the Democratic convention’s lineup.
“Conventions often seek out members of the other party to speak in order to show how the nominee is willing to work with both sides of the aisle and be bipartisan in an attempt to win over centrist voters, independents, and those from the other side disaffected with their own party or nominee,” Cohen said.
Kasich didn’t attend the 2016 Republican National Convention, despite it being anchored in Cleveland while he was a governor after his own White House bid. And that fall, he declined to vote for President Trump, writing in then-Arizona Sen. John McCain on his ballot instead.
“From the Biden campaign’s perspective, Kasich is the perfect guy to highlight how far Trump’s Republican Party has moved in four years and how Biden can be a president to bring people together,” he said.
Kasich himself said the “Republican Party has always been my vehicle, but never my master.”
“You have to do what you think is right in your heart, and I’m comfortable here,” he told CNN, describing Biden as “a pretty tough guy” who “can restore civility” but not “go hard left” like Sanders.