America’s first lady has joined Bernie Sanders to make an impassioned plea for Democrats to get behind Hillary Clinton’s bid to be the nation’s next president.
Seeking to bridge deep Democratic divides, Mr Sanders endorsed former rival Mrs Clinton as a champion for the same economic causes that enlivened his supporters, signalling it was time for them too, to support her in the campaign against Republican White House candidate Donald Trump.
“Any objective observer will conclude that, based on her ideas and her leadership, Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States,” Mr Sanders declared in a headlining address on the opening night of the Democratic convention in Philadelphia.
Mr Sanders joined a line-up of speakers, including Michelle Obama, whose address all but wiped away earlier tumult in the convention hall that had exposed lingering tensions between Clinton and Sanders supporters.
Mrs Obama, who has spent nearly eight years in the White House avoiding political fights, took numerous swipes at Mr Trump, while avoiding mentioning him by name.
“This election and every election is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives,” she said.
“There is only one person I trust with that responsibility, only one person I believe is truly qualified to be president of the United States, and that is Hillary Clinton.”
While Mr Sanders had endorsed Mrs Clinton previously, his remarks early yesterday marked his most vigorous and detailed praise of her qualifications for the presidency. It came at a crucial moment for Mrs Clinton’s campaign, on the heels of leaked emails suggesting the party had favoured the former secretary of state through the primaries despite a vow of neutrality.
Mr Sanders scored the resignation of party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a nemesis in the primaries - but that was not enough to quell the anger of supporters.
As the convention opened, they still erupted in chants of “Bernie” and booed Mrs Clinton the first several times her name was mentioned. Outside the convention hall, several hundred marched down Philadelphia’s sweltering streets with signs carrying messages such as “Never Hillary”.
Behind the scenes, Mr Sanders and Mrs Clinton aides joined forces to try to ease tensions. Mrs Clinton’s campaign quickly added more Sanders supporters to the speakers’ line-up and Mr Sanders sent urgent messages asking them not to protest.
By the time Mr Sanders took the stage for the night’s closing address, much of the anger had been overshadowed by speeches promoting party unity. He did his part, imploring his supporters to consider a country under Mr Trump’s leadership.
“If you don’t believe this election is important, if you think you can sit it out, take a moment to think about the Supreme Court justices that Donald Trump would nominate and what that would mean to civil liberties, equal rights and the future of our country,” he said.
Mrs Clinton’s husband, former US president Bill Clinton, watching from the audience, leapt to his feet and applauded, as did most of the delegates filling the arena.
Mr Sanders spoke just after Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, a favourite of liberals who has emerged as one of the Democrats’ toughest critics of Mr Trump.
“Donald Trump has no real plans for jobs, for college kids, for seniors,” she said in the keynote address.
“No plans to make anything great for anyone except rich guys like Donald Trump.”