US election: Heavy hitters take aim at one man

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Media captionObama passes baton to Clinton

If the Democratic nomination was a baseball line-up, then Wednesday night was the heart of the batting order, with all the heavy hitters taking their turn at the plate.

Whereas a week ago the Republican convention was rather light on highlights - and some of them, such as Texas Senator Ted Cruz's non-endorsement, were negative - the Democrats rolled out a series of the party's marquee stars.

They all praised Hillary Clinton and took swipes at Donald Trump, but did it with their own particular rhetorical style.

Here's how it went down, complete with the most memorable anti-Trump lines.

President Barack Obama

He is good at this. He's really, really good at this.

For all his flaws - and conservatives will be quick to point them out - he's always been able to deliver a pitch-perfect speech on the biggest stages, and this was no exception.

In 2004 he burst on to the national scene at the Democratic National Convention with his poetic "One America" speech.

For eight years, he governed largely in prose. In what was his valedictory address at the 2016 convention, he bookended his national political career with more poetry.

Mr Obama took advantage of two openings that Mr Trump gave him in the Republican's acceptance speech last Thursday. He successfully claimed the optimistic high ground, giving a speech heavy in praise for American ideals.

"The America I know is full of courage, and optimism, and ingenuity," he said. "The America I know is decent and generous."

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It was the kind of speech that had some conservatives shaking their heads, wondering how their party ceded the optimistic high ground to their opponents. Mr Obama even quoted Ronald Reagan's "shining city on a hill" line, if only to make the political shift all the more clear.

Mr Obama also offered a direct response to Mr Trump's questioning whether the president regretted naming Mrs Clinton secretary of state.

"For four years, I had a front-row seat to her intelligence, her judgment, and her discipline," he said of his former Democratic rival. "I came to realize that her unbelievable work ethic wasn't for praise or attention - that she was in this for everyone who needs a champion."

On Thursday Mrs Clinton takes the stage to claim the nomination the Democratic Party has given her. The speakers tonight laid the groundwork for this moment before a national audience. Now Americans will learn whether she's up to the challenge.

Memorable anti-Trump line: "Anyone who threatens our values, whether fascists or communists or jihadists or homegrown demagogues, will always fail in the end."

Vice-Presidential nominee Tim Kaine

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It was a sweet mercy that Democrats broke with tradition and kept the Virginia senator out of the closing spot on Wednesday night's speaking list. He never could have competed with Mr Obama's soaring rhetoric.

The most pressing task for Mr Kaine - as it is for many newly minted vice-presidential candidates - was to introduce himself to the nation. He did that by talking about his son, a Marine, displaying his Spanish fluency and describing the role he played as governor after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting.

He also had to show he could fulfill the traditional attack-dog role for the presidential running mate - and he dutifully performed his assignment.

"You know who I don't trust?" Mr Kaine asked. "Donald Trump. The guy promises a lot. But you might have noticed, he has a habit of saying the same two words right after he makes his biggest promises."

Then the man raised in Missouri launched into what may be the most mid-western-sounding impersonation of New Yorker Trump ever recorded.

"Believe me!" he shouted, to audience laughter.

He went on to list Mr Trump's promises - from a border wall to his foreign policy and promised unremarkableness of his not-yet released tax returns.

If he stumbled, it was only because his speech ran long - pushing Mr Obama's closing speech into the very edge of prime-time on the East Coast.

Memorable anti-Trump line: "Hillary's passion is kids and families. Donald Trump has a passion too: It's himself."

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg

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The former head of the largest city in the US contemplated a presidential bid of his own earlier this year, using his billions to run as an independent. Instead, he spoke to an arena packed with Democrats - and urged independent voters to back Mrs Clinton.

His pro-Clinton pitch was simple and direct.

"Together, let's elect a sane and competent person," he said.

It wasn't exactly a rousing endorsement, and he said the former secretary of state was "not flawless", but he asserted that she was the best choice out there.

In many ways Mr Bloomberg came at Mr Trump from the elite, business-oriented middle - a reprise of the anti-Trump speech former Republican nominee Mitt Romney gave in March, only delivered in a nasal Boston accent.

It's the kind of pitch that will likely bounce off Mr Trump's blue-collar supporters, but it could help sway the suburban conservatives who are uneasy with the Republican nominee's populist rhetoric.

Memorable anti-Trump line: "Truth be told, the richest thing about Donald Trump is his hypocrisy."

Vice-President Joe Biden

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Media captionBiden and Kaine take aim at Trump

Blue-collar Joe has always been a favourite of Democratic audiences, with an aw-shucks East Coast Catholic shtick that he can roll out on cue. He offered a heavy dose of it on Wednesday night

He said Mr Trump's expressions of concern about the middle class were "a bunch of malarkey".

The vice-president is at his most powerful, however, when talking about the personal - and nothing has been more personal, or as compelling, as the death of his son, Beau. And, as he often does, it turned it into a tribute to working class values and persistence in the face of adversity.

"They get up every morning, every day," he said. "They put one foot in front of the other, they keep going. That is the unbreakable spirit of the people of America. That is who we are."

Mr Obama added Mr Biden to his ticket in 2008 to appeal to the slice of the electorate that was cool to his particular style - the white, middle-class voters in Pennsylvania and the industrial Midwest.

Mr Biden helped deliver those states to Mr Obama twice. Now he tried to make one more pitch for them to support Mrs Clinton - although it's a group of voters that has shown a strong interest in Mr Trump's unique political brand.

Memorable anti-Trump line: "He has no clue about what makes America great. Actually, he has no clue period."