Alison Lundergan Grimes at Democratic National Convention
Democrats have spent the week in Philadelphia forcefully trying to make the case that Hillary Clinton is the most qualified presidential candidate ever and that Donald Trump is a disgusting threat to national security.
What must Clinton say in her speech tonight to make voters believe it?
The stakes couldn’t be higher. With a bump coming out of last week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Trump has a slight lead over Clinton in the latest polls. It will be interesting what kind of convention bump Clinton gets.
A well-choreographed Democratic National Convention has included a parade of political heavy hitters and celebrities both singing Clinton’s praises and questioning Trump’s competence, decency and sanity.
Most of the first two nights were focused on shoring up the party base and trying to sooth disaffected Bernie Sanders voters. But Wednesday night’s program was intended to persuade everyone that Clinton is infinitely more fit than Trump to be America’s commander-in-chief in a dangerous world.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden gave powerful, energetic speeches passing their torch to Clinton.
“There has never been a man or a woman — not me, not Bill, nobody — more qualified to serve as president of the United States of America,” Obama said in a valedictory address emphasizing America’s values. “Even in the midst of crisis, she listens to people, keeps her cool and treats everyone with respect. And … she never, ever quits.”
Leon Panetta, a former Secretary of Defense, CIA director and White House chief of staff, spoke of Clinton’s toughness and steadiness as Secretary of State, such as when he argued for the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden. Then he went after Trump.
“It is inconceivable to me that any presidential candidate would be that irresponsible,” Panetta said, citing the Republican nominees many reckless statements. “Donald Trump cannot become our commander in chief.”
Perhaps the most influential endorsement came from a man who is not a Democrat and made it clear he disagrees with much of the party’s platform. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was elected as a Republican and is now an independent.
Unlike most speakers at both conventions, Bloomberg pointedly directed his comments to independents and dissatisfied members of both parties. “Whatever our disagreements may be, we must put them aside for the good of the country,” he said.
As a New York senator, Bloomberg said, Clinton worked tirelessly to help him and others rebuild after the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001.
“We didn’t always agree, but Hillary Clinton always listened,” he said, praising her ability to work across party lines to solve problems and get things done. “I know Hillary can do that because I saw it firsthand.”
Bloomberg, a self-made technology entrepreneur worth more than $40 billion, lit into Trump as both a lousy businessman and a “dangerous demagogue.”
“Trump says he wants to run the nation like he’s running his business? God help us,” Bloomberg said. “I’m a New Yorker, and I know a con when I see one. Truth be told, the richest thing about Donald Trump is his hypocrisy.”
Bloomberg said Clinton has her flaws, but she is the right choice in this election. “She understands that this is not reality television; this is reality,” he said. “We need someone who is sane and competent.”
Convention speakers could not have done a better job of setting the table for Clinton. Tonight, she must deliver the meal.
First, Clinton must convince undecided voters they can trust her. That won’t be easy.
Obama and former President Bill Clinton were right in their speeches that Republicans relentlessly smeared her for decades. But she has often been her own worst enemy, making unforced errors and lapses of judgment such as her private email server and accepting huge speaking fees.
Democrats spent three days this week citing facts and spouting optimism to counter Trump’s dark and almost apocalyptic vision of an America in ruins. Clinton’s challenge is to strike a tone that is hopeful, yet speaks honestly to the pain, anger and frustration so many Americans feel.
But more than anything tonight, Clinton must explain how she can work with others to build a stronger nation. It must be a clear vision that undecided voters can understand and accept.
It won’t be enough to condemn Trump as a fear-mongering hater with no realistic plans. Clinton must acknowledge the problems, dangers and fears and explain how her leadership can help us overcome them.