The Republicans held a mostly untraditional convention that was disjointed and not message-driven – unless the message was anger, because that came through clearly - and included some folks who admitted, on national television (I’m talking about you, Scott Baio) that they didn’t really know why there were invited.
The Democrats are holding a more traditional convention that started on a disunity as Sanders supporters threatened all kinds of protests. But the Clinton folks managed that potential damage quite well, resulting in Sen. Sanders making the motion to nominate Hillary Clinton by acclimation – an exclamation point that showed unity.
From that point on, it’s been a well-messaged convention with very touching moments (an 11-year-old daughter of undocumented immigrants, a disabled woman making the case for Hillary, Mothers of the Movement standing together in support of Hillary) and a series of speakers talking about her humanity, humanzing the woman who seems to be inhuman to many voters. All topped off by former President Bill Clinton’s rambling and touching tribute to his wife, the change maker. President Clinton often appears to ramble, but he always has a point he’s going to make – and he made it well last night. On the other side, it seemed the only people speaking to Donald Trump’s “human side” were his children and people on his payroll. (Other than those politicians who have cravenly sold out to him in the name of party loyalty.)
With one more big speech – President Obama – left, the table will be set for the nominee’s acceptance speech Thursday night. And the pressure will be on for her to validate all the humanzing stories that have been told. A heavy lift, for sure.
Aside from the questions regarding the Clinton Foundation and other such “corruptive” influences – all undocumented – Mrs. Clinton often comes across as not real. The anger she displays in speeches seems forced, her testified-to tenderness never coming through. Her voice often seems forced in speeches, not natural like her husband.
I’m told by those who know her some – mostly reporters or former reporters who covered her and spent one-on-one time with her - that she is a totally different person privately than she is publicly, warm, funny, real. Those stories match what we heard from the podium last night. If she can portray those traits herself, it will go a long way to helping her win in November.
From a convention management view, to take a few steps back, Mrs. Clinton had to approve the convention strategy that basically allowed the Sanders supporters to act out Monday night and part of Tuesday so they could vent their disappointment, rather than be emotionally restrained and forced to be silent (despite some who taped their own mouths in protest). That was well done damage control, something a President has to do most every day, and with the 24-hour news cycle, even more often. We saw how Donald Trump handled such a protest at his convention when he tried to over shadow Sen. Cruz’ speech which was not going the way Trump wanted. He feels he is always the only one who can solve a problem. Well, the only one who can do most anything really.
(Tangent: You could see the difference Donna Brazile will make as interim chairman when she dramatically and intentionally sashayed her way on stage. An organizer from way back and one with a stage presence to make a little light of the serious situation she is sashaying into).
Last night was loaded with personal endorsements of Mrs. Clinton’s humanity:
Cong. Joe Crowley’s talk of her response after 9/11; efforts to re-cast what her husband called the “cartoon” figure that the Trump campaign is trying to make her out to be (reinforcing years long perceptions of her), the nice touches by the various delegations including the 102-year-old Arizona woman who cast the state’s ballots for her, the Georgia woman who held her baby as her state’s ballots were cast, the Mothers of the Movement’s powerful presentation as of violence facing the African American community and the police lately.
The campaign, unlike eight years ago, embracing Mrs. Clinton as the first female candidate of a major party to run for the presidency.
It’s all well-choreographed. It’s all been well done and now she must, tomorrow, night deliver on the promise and deliver the speech of her life. Other candidates have been in this position in the past. I remember George Herbert Walker Bush’s 1988 convention. Not known as a fine orator, the pressure was on Bush to deliver a strong speech, distinguishing himself from his predecessor, the speech giver of all time Ronald Reagan, at the same time not separating himself. He needed to show who he was, not only the loyal understudy to Reagan and demonstrating his human side. He delivered in that speech.
And so must Hillary on Thursday night. A good speech Thursday will give her a little bounce out of the convention, maybe giving her a small national polling lead again and setting up the fall debates, probably, as the events that will sway the swayable voters who will make the difference in this election.