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Joe Biden speaks last week in Darby, Pa. Photo: Matt Slocum/AP

Democrats are trying to make a virtue of necessity by modernizing the rusty convention format for a mostly virtual gathering in Milwaukee in August, with up to 1,000 people in real life but extensive use of videos and remotes.

What's planned: The program will be shorter — 8 to 11 p.m. ET over four nights, instead of starting at the traditional 4 or 5 p.m. And there'll be fewer speeches, with a mix of live and taped segments from around the country.

  • The emphasis will be on storytelling — what President Trump has done vs. what America could be under Joe Biden.
  • It'll be billed as a convention for all Americans, with outreach to people who supported Bernie Sanders — and Trump 2016 voters who regret it.

The state of play: The Democratic National Convention Committee announced Wednesday that the "Convention Across America" will be "anchored in Milwaukee," moved from the arena where the Bucks play to a smaller convention center downtown.

  • "[S]tate delegations should not plan to travel to Milwaukee and should plan to conduct their official convention business remotely," the DNCC said.

Between the lines: Both parties are playing up the optical contrast between their conventions, with Trump trying to send a comeback message via a massive gathering (now in Jacksonville) with pre-pandemic exuberance.

  • So the conventions — held back-to-back in the third and fourth weeks of August, with Dems first — will be constraint vs. bravado, a proxy for Trump vs. Biden.

The bottom line ... Axios' Margaret Talev calls the Democrats' approach a "forced reset" — experiments the country has been living with for 3+ months:

  • Pare back to essentials.
  • See what can work virtually with technology.
  • Try innovations that'd be tough sells in "normal" times.
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Go deeper

What to watch in tonight's debate

Joe Biden (left) and President Trump (right) are facing off in Cleveland for the first presidential debate. Photos: Alex Wong (of Biden) and David Hume Kennerly (of Trump)/Getty Images

President Trump will try to break Joe Biden's composure by going after his son Hunter and other family members in tonight's first presidential debate — a campaign source tells Axios "nothing will be off the table" — while Biden plans to stick to the economy, coronavirus and new revelations about how Trump avoided paying taxes.

Driving the news: Biden and Trump are set to debate at 9pm ET at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and it will be moderated by Fox News' Chris Wallace.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."