After the conventions, the presidential race heads into the dog days
July 29th, 2016,
As the nation’s political class, reporters, and analysts recover from the two-week convention slog — we know, the nation feels so sorry for us — the presidential race enters something of a lull.
Labor Day, the traditional kick-off to the general election sprint, is still a month away, and August is a month dominated by vacations and, every presidential year, the Olympics, which will draw many eyeballs away from politics during the dog days.
In the meantime, we’ll have to wait and see what the polls say in a couple of weeks, after the effects of the conventions become clearer.
Based on the way we’re calculating convention bumps, Trump’s median bounce has remained three points, going from a median poll figure of 41% to 44% as of Friday. That’s below the roughly five-point median bounce that presidential candidates have typically gotten over the past few decades. However, that obscures the progress Trump has made in national polls over the past several weeks. As of three weeks ago, Trump was down about five points in the RealClearPolitics average, but it’s now tied. The HuffPost Pollster average also had him down about five points three weeks ago, and now he’s down two. We can quibble over the details, but it seems clear Trump gained at least a little bit of support from his convention.
But now Clinton should get her own bounce.
The Democratic National Convention featured a more impressive list of speakers than the Republican confab: effectively every major Democrat was there and they all spoke glowingly of Clinton, while several top GOP leaders, like Mitt Romney, John McCain, John Kasich, and the Bush family, were absent from Cleveland, and Ted Cruz couldn’t even bring himself to endorse Trump in his speech. Clinton is clearly going to have more high-level surrogates to campaign on her behalf across the country. Whether that truly matters is a fair question.
Two of the most effective speakers were ones who likely were targeting a niche audience. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an ex-Republican (though hardly a conservative one), assailed Trump and made the case for why people who may not typically vote Democratic should back Clinton this time. We often talk to people who say they vote for “the candidate, not the party label,” a line that Bloomberg used. The high level of party unity in modern American politics calls into question the sincerity of such statements, but if Bloomberg persuaded some small sliver of Country Club Republicans turned off by Trump’s rough edges to back Clinton, his speech will have been a success for Democrats.
On the final night, retired Gen. John Allen made the case that Clinton would be a stronger commander in chief. During his speech, and amidst chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” drowning out a smattering of anti-war Sanders backers, we certainly weren’t the only ones who thought we had been transported a dozen years back in time to a George W. Bush rally. But Allen’s speech was another targeted at Republicans, particularly the party’s foreign policy elites, who have grave misgivings about Trump, a critic of Bush’s interventionism.
For what it’s worth, we thought that it might have been wise for Clinton, in her own speech, to acknowledge voters’ lack of trust in her, and perhaps even make at least an oblique reference to her email scandal. In advance of the conventions, the race began to tighten, probably in part because of FBI Director James Comey’s press conference that called Clinton’s email practices into question even while announcing that the FBI did not suggest indicting her. We floated this idea on Twitter, and some Clinton supporters argued that doing so would have distracted from the message of Clinton’s speech, which may have been the case. In any event, Clinton has yet to shake the email questions and broader concerns about her personal integrity.
The strongest part of Clinton’s speech were her attacks on Trump’s lack of qualification to be president. Whatever one may think of Clinton, she has much more experience than Trump and has much greater command of policy specifics. Trump’s hardcore supporters don’t mind his lack of experience and policy savvy — in fact, they celebrate it. But polls indicate that a majority of the country is not yet convinced that Trump is up to the task of being president, and Clinton’s pokes preview what will be a major line of attack throughout the fall. Much of the rest of Clinton’s speech contained fairly standard Democratic rhetoric designed to further unify the party.
A potential problem for the Democrats, though, is that the party might be trying to build too wide of a tent. Jeet Heer, a writer at the liberal New Republic, argues that “Strange as it may sound, Clinton has assembled a coalition that is too big, which makes it unwieldy and riven with internal contradictions.”
There were at least a few people in the convention hall — scattered amongst the neon green-shirt clad Bernie Sanders diehards — who probably won’t be voting for Clinton in the fall. And more broadly, Clinton still has work to do to make sure young voter turnout does not drop. These voters were very supportive of Sanders in the primary, they are the most Democratic age group in the country, and they are the least reliable group of voters. That’s not a great combination for Clinton, and we’re not sure this convention did a great job cultivating them despite obvious ploys such as having Katy Perry performing in primetime on Thursday night. As effective as Allen and Bloomberg may have been in offering a persuasive message to some Republicans, we can’t imagine they did anything for the Sanders crowd. Here’s where negative partisanship — voting against Donald Trump as opposed to for Hillary Clinton — may be the best weapon the Democrats have.
The nightmare scenario for Democrats is that their “Coalition of the Ascendant” — nonwhites, college-educated white women, and young voters — shows up in insufficient or uneven strength. For instance, we can imagine an election in which Clinton narrowly wins the popular vote by outperforming recent Democratic performances in diversifying states like Arizona and Georgia, but failing to win those states, and in the process ceding whiter, heartland states like Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to Trump. In other words, the intensity of Trump’s downscale white coalition might outshine the broader but less cohesive collection of Clinton voters. To be clear, we continue to see Clinton as a favorite, and in a world in which Clinton is improving in places like Arizona and Georgia she might also be winning Florida and North Carolina, both of which are almost certainly must-wins for Trump. But there are a lot of scenarios we can envision at this point, and some of them might produce a Trump victory.
The next big event on the calendar is the first debate, scheduled for Sept. 26. There’s been at least one presidential debate in every election since 1976, although there were no debates from 1964-1972 following the groundbreaking, initial televised presidential debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon in 1960. Presumably we’ll have them again, but it’s not impossible to imagine one of the candidates, more likely Trump, opting against participating. And there’s also a small chance that the Libertarian ticket of Gary Johnson and William Weld gets to 15% in an average of national polls, which would permit both to debate.
But for now, we wait. Whatever one might say about the deficiencies of Trump’s RNC, there’s little question that he got a bounce out of it, albeit not one that was reflected across all polls. The convention brought him to roughly a tie in polling averages. Now Clinton has the chance to get her own bounce, and there’s every reason to expect she will get one, although it’s hard to speculate on the size. Let’s say it’s around four or five points, which, again, would be in line with recent previous nominees of both parties. That would put her up about three or four points nationally, which would restore the race to its standing from a few weeks ago, before Comey’s press conference and the RNC. A lead like that, if it held steady until Election Day, would suggest a national outcome very similar to Barack Obama’s 2012 victory, which is roughly what our current Electoral College ratings show.
However, when conventions are held this early, do they mean as much? The last time both parties held conventions this early — before the end of July — was in 1960. That race saw Kennedy and Nixon trade leads in Gallup’s polls a couple of times over the next three months before Kennedy narrowly won in November.
Clearly, any bounce is more difficult to sustain when over 100 days remain. There is simply too much time left for new issues and controversies to intervene. Nor will the media permit the same themes to dominate day after day; their audience might get bored.
So the most that candidates can do is build off the conventions. Here the two candidates will differ. Trump is a hunter and forager who kills what he sees and capitalizes on serendipitous events. Clinton is a planter who decides ahead what crops she will grow, and then cultivates them to harvest. Take opposition research. Trump welcomes intelligence from his old press and business allies but it’s doubtful he has binders full of information on Hillary Clinton’s life over the decades.
Clinton is the opposite. What Democrats have already assembled on Trump’s past would likely fill a library shelf, or two or three.
The fundamentals matter more, of course: Obama’s job ratings, the state of the economy, and terrorism are three examples. But if this contest turns out to be a squeaker, then the quality of scorched-earth attacks may matter. What has each side squirreled away for the fall? And what further surprises lurk in the shadows? Just because August feels like it could be a lull does not mean it will be.
JFK holds off LBJ in 1960, and then looms over his successor’s convention four years later
July 28th, 2016,
|Dear readers: This is the second and third part of a three-part series on the 1956, 1960, and 1964 Democratic National Conventions, and John F. Kennedy’s role at each. Click here to read part one.
— The Editors
Part II: Jack Kennedy’s 1960 Convention Triumph
In 2016, some delegates in both parties have hoped the conventions might return to a bygone era, when they were not cut-and-dried, when delegates could revolt and pull surprises and upset frontrunners. There were plenty of Democrats in 1960 who prayed for just such an outcome. John F. Kennedy had won the primaries and run an exceptionally well-organized campaign — but he was a mere 43 years old, he was Roman Catholic in a heavily Protestant nation, and many party elders, including former President Harry Truman and former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, were open in their opposition.
Nonetheless, by the summer of 1960, most party insiders believed the Kennedy nomination was a fait accompli. JFK arrived in Los Angeles for the Democratic convention brimming with confidence. He had already chosen his Washington headquarters for the general election and determined his strategy for the fall. His challengers were desperate to stop his nomination.
Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson’s supporters told the press that Kennedy had Addison’s disease and depended on cortisone treatments to stay alive. Robert Kennedy denied the charge, saying that Jack “does not now nor has he ever had an ailment described classically as Addison’s disease.” Bobby was not truthful, and neither were Drs. Eugene Cohen and Janet Travell when they published a report in June describing JFK’s health as “excellent” and his “vitality, endurance and resistance to infection” as “above average.” In reality, Kennedy had nagging health problems, including ulcers, colitis, and severe back pain as well as Addison’s disease. Travell would later discover that Kennedy’s left leg was three-quarters of an inch shorter than his right leg, a defect that had worsened his back pain for years and would force him to wear special shoes during his presidency. John Connally, one of LBJ’s strongest supporters and a fellow Texan, said that he would be delighted “to submit Senator Johnson’s medical record, since his recovery from a 1955 heart attack, and have it compared with that of Senator Kennedy and any other contenders.” The Kennedy campaign refused to take the bait and the controversy was soon lost in the excitement of the convention.
JFK arrived in Los Angeles with 600 delegate votes, 161 short of what he needed to secure the nomination. Although confident of victory, Kennedy refused to take anything for granted. He knew that Sen. Stuart Symington of Missouri controlled between 100 and 150 delegates, two-time nominee Adlai Stevenson had somewhere around 50, and the Kansas and Iowa delegations had pledged their 52 votes to their favorite-son candidates, Govs. George Docking and Hershel Loveless.
Kennedy understood that Lyndon Johnson posed the greatest threat to his nomination; even though the Texas senator had waited until the last minute to declare his candidacy — less than a week before the convention — LBJ had already lined up close to 500 votes. Five states were still up for grabs: Pennsylvania, California, New Jersey, Illinois, and Minnesota.
On Monday, July 11, the opening day of the convention, JFK zipped between meetings in a white Cadillac that had a rare car telephone. At each stop, he glad-handed delegates and fielded questions from journalists. Meanwhile, at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, delegates had just settled in for a round of hum-drum party speeches when a huge commotion erupted outside — hundreds of men, women, and children were marching back and forth in front of the arena, waving signs and shouting “We want Stevenson! We want Stevenson!” The demonstration encouraged the California delegation — which previously had been leaning toward JFK — to split its vote the next day between Kennedy and Stevenson.
At the same time, Johnson kept up the pressure on the Kennedy camp, secretly encouraging his supporters to make hay out of the family’s religion and accusing Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., of having harbored pro-Nazi sympathies in the 1930s. Johnson also challenged the young senator to a debate in the week before the convention with their home Texas and Massachusetts delegations as the audience. Kennedy accepted, and confident of his forthcoming convention majority, all but ignored the brickbats Johnson hurled at him. Kennedy even said he was “strongly in support” of Johnson…for Senate majority leader.
Unknown to Johnson or almost anyone else, Kennedy was seriously considering the Texan for the vice presidential nomination. On the opening day of the convention, in a highly unusual intervention by journalists, the newspaper columnist Joseph Alsop and Philip Graham, publisher of the Washington Post, stopped by Kennedy’s suite to urge him to select Johnson as his running mate. Having talked to friends of Johnson, they assured JFK that Johnson would accept the vice presidential nomination if it were offered to him. Kennedy tipped his hand a bit when he readily agreed with their arguments.
On Wednesday, the excitement of the convention reached a fever pitch when Sen. Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota put Adlai Stevenson’s name into nomination. “Do not reject this man who has made us all proud to be called Democrats,” proclaimed McCarthy. “Do not leave this prophet without honor in his own party.” Stevenson’s supporters marched through the hall singing, clapping, and chanting, “We want Stevenson! We want Stevenson!” Watching the scene from the comfort of a posh Beverly Hills estate, JFK told his father not to worry because, “Stevenson has everything but delegates.” The Kennedy high command had made a science of delegate counting and was supremely confident. A bit later, Kennedy won the nomination on the first ballot with the support of 763 delegates — precisely two more votes than he needed.
The decision on the running mate was next. Kennedy’s short list included Symington, Johnson, Humphrey, Minnesota Governor Orville Freeman, and Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson of Washington state. Kennedy knew that having LBJ on the ticket would help him greatly in the South and that, if he were elected, Johnson’s magnificent legislative skills might assist him in enacting his program. The possibility of taking the second spot was broached with LBJ, and sure enough, he was receptive.
LBJ aide Bill Moyers (later a longtime PBS fixture) was with Johnson the day JFK offered him the vice presidency, sleeping in the bathroom of the Johnsons’ hotel suite when he heard the phone ring. “I thought I would get to the phone first in the hotel room,” he recalls, “but Lady Bird picked it up. And I heard her as I came in the door saying ‘Lyndon, it’s Jack . . . Senator Kennedy.’ LBJ woke up, listened to the voice, hung up and said, ‘He wants to come see me.’ And Lady Bird said, ‘I hope you won’t do it.’” Moyers opened the door for Kennedy when he arrived a short time later, but he retreated to his assigned bathroom while the two politicians talked. Although he could not hear anything that was said, Moyers is convinced that JFK knew exactly what he was doing and had no qualms about choosing Johnson as a running mate. “When [Kennedy] left that room, I was sure that he had communicated to Johnson that he really wanted him to run, and that LBJ was going to do it.”
Johnson thought his nomination was a done deal as word spread. Then JFK had second thoughts the very same day: What if his choice, a conservative Southerner, caused a split in the party? RFK and aides Kenny O’Donnell and Ralph Dungan protested the possible choice. In order to line up liberal votes, they had promised to keep LBJ off the ticket. JFK also got an earful from labor leaders, who were angry with Johnson for supporting legislation they considered harmful to the union cause.
Kennedy dispatched Bobby to warn Johnson about the brewing revolt inside the party. Bobby offered Johnson the party chairmanship as an alternative, but LBJ, blinded by tears, steadfastly refused. He wanted the vice presidency; Johnson was willing to give up real power in the Senate in order to “get in line” for the presidency. “Well, then that’s fine,” replied an unhappy Bobby. “He wants you to be vice president if you want to be vice president” — not exactly the enthusiastic embrace a prospective ticket-mate usually gets. Johnson never forgave Bobby for trying to bump him off the ticket, and this episode was apparently the beginning of their long mutual loathing.
Whatever the internal turmoil behind Johnson’s selection as the vice presidential nominee, it turned out to be a big key to a close victory in the fall. A Northern Yankee, Kennedy could not have been elected without Southern electoral votes that Johnson added in Texas and probably other closely contested states below the Mason-Dixon Line. The implications of JFK’s decision would reverberate well beyond the election, of course. American history would have taken a different path, for good or ill, if one of the other possibilities had joined the ticket. Either Richard Nixon would have become president eight years before he actually did, or a Democratic president very unlike LBJ would have succeeded an assassinated Kennedy (assuming the murder would still have occurred). This alternate universe is fascinating to contemplate but unknowable.
The world we do know proceeded from Johnson’s selection to JFK’s acceptance speech at the convention. At Bobby Kennedy’s suggestion, the Los Angeles Coliseum was chosen as the site of the address instead of the convention hall, since the 100,000-seat stadium could hold more people and would inject additional excitement into the closing hours. RFK was sold on the idea by a 29-year-old Los Angeles councilwoman, Rosalind Wyman, who had been instrumental in bringing the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles. When the younger Kennedy expressed concerns about filling the stadium, Wyman suggested that they close off half the structure, and Bobby agreed. As campaign manager, RFK always looked for ways to enhance his brother’s image, and the coliseum speech was novel. What Bobby did not consider were the security implications. By selecting an open-air facility in front of thousands of unscreened people, Sen. Kennedy would be vulnerable to attack by anyone who secured a ticket. The campaign made JFK even more vulnerable by having the candidate ride through the stadium in an open convertible. This was a very different era, when security concerns were secondary to political needs, and campaigns rarely considered “the unthinkable.”
Fortunately, the address proceeded without incident. JFK impressed the stadium crowd as well as a much larger audience watching on TV with a dynamic presentation that provided the label for his eventual administration, the New Frontier:
“For the problems are not all solved and the battles are not all won — and we stand today on the edge of a New Frontier — the frontier of the 1960s — a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils — a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats. Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom promised our nation a new political and economic framework. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal promised security and succor to those in need. But the New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises — it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them. It appeals to their pride, not to their pocketbook — it holds out the promise of more sacrifice instead of more security.”
The Gallup Poll’s trial heat had been tied leading up to the convention. A strong performance in Los Angeles gave Kennedy a slim 50% to 46% edge over Nixon. It didn’t last, and Nixon went up by several points after his August convention. The polling see-saw continued all the way to the photo-finish in JFK’s favor on Election Day in November. Almost anything, even at the convention, could have made the tiny difference between victory and defeat.
Part III: Robert Kennedy’s 1964 Tribute to His Slain Brother
The formal business of the ’64 Democratic National Convention was nominating President Lyndon Johnson and his choice for vice president, Sen. Hubert Humphrey. The emotional highlight, though, would be memorializing John F. Kennedy, and this was not an entirely welcome prospect for LBJ. For weeks memos had streamed back and forth in the Johnson White House about how to handle the Kennedys in Atlantic City. In LBJ’s view, this was his convention, his opportunity to emerge fully from John Kennedy’s shadow. But to the Kennedys, and a large portion of Democrats and the public, it was impossible to forget that this would have been JFK’s moment of triumph, where he would have been launched toward a second term.
A 20-minute film was commissioned to salute JFK. It was, in the words of Johnson presidential assistant Douglass Cater, a “tearjerker,” utilizing Mrs. Kennedy’s allusion to Camelot as its theme. “Camelot was a highly schmaltzy musical about a semi-mythical kingdom,” wrote Cater to LBJ press secretary Bill Moyers. “I have quite mixed feelings about its propriety at a convention,” he huffed. Cater’s real concern became apparent:
“Certainly, the delegates will be left weeping. It would be less dramatic but probably less risky to show that film sequence without the music. I have vague unrest about engaging in such an emotional bender just before the Johnson acceptance speech.”
At first the film had been scheduled for showing on the convention’s first night. But Johnson and some of his aides worried that it could stampede the delegates into nominating Bobby Kennedy for vice president, regardless of Johnson’s preference. This was never a very likely prospect, but such was the wariness about RFK and the Kennedy family’s intentions. LBJ and RFK had long nurtured a hatred for one another that was burned into their souls; both could be extraordinarily petty, and they never missed an opportunity to assume the worst about one another. Even though he knew he would be miserable in the position, Kennedy wanted the vice presidency as a vehicle to eventually restore the White House to his family. Johnson was more determined to ensure that RFK didn’t get it. During his VP search, the president had ruled out “all sitting members of my Cabinet” because he needed them to serve, for continuity’s sake, in their current positions. This was a thinly veiled way of eliminating RFK, and everyone understood that. (For more, read Larry Tye’s superb new book from Random House, Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon.)
LBJ’s convention solution was shrewd: the JFK film would be delayed until the final evening when the Johnson-Humphrey ticket was already set. Bobby Kennedy could tug at the delegates’ heartstrings all he wanted, and nothing would come of it.
The Johnson entourage was right about one thing. The emotional impact of this film, and its introduction by Robert Kennedy, was overwhelming. When RFK appeared, the delegates launched a spontaneous, 22-minute standing ovation, and they simply refused to let him start speaking. They wanted the moment to last; they wanted him to know how they felt. RFK’s short oration finished with a passage from “Romeo and Juliet” that some read, perhaps over-read, as a contrast between JFK (the heavenly night stars) and LBJ (the garish sun):
“. . . when he shall die
Take him and cut him out in little stars
And he will make the face of heav’n so fine
That all the world will be in love with the Night
And pay no worship to the garish Sun.”
Virtually the entire convention hall was crying, and millions at home as well. The film recounted JFK’s achievements, but the personal glimpses — such as Kennedy teaching John Jr. to tickle his chin with a buttercup — were most affecting, and hard to watch. Meanwhile, RFK had left the stage and gone out to sit on a staircase. Inconsolable, he broke down in tears. No one knew better what that evening would have meant had President Kennedy not gone to Texas.
The state of the race after Clinton makes it official
July 27th, 2016,
(PHILADELPHIA) — After Donald Trump picked Mike Pence to be his running mate two weeks ago — that feels like two months ago, right? — we suggested that Trump could end up taking at least a temporary lead because of the convention bounce that presidential candidates typically get after their conventions.
It appears that Trump has in fact gotten a bounce, at least in some polls. The most dramatic change so far came in the CNN/ORC poll, which shifted all the way from a seven-point Hillary Clinton lead to a three-point Trump edge. On the other hand, the NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll didn’t change at all (it showed a 46%-45% Clinton lead both before and after the convention), and there were some other contradictory signs. Nonetheless, Trump’s numbers generally improved, as is common after a convention. Based on the median of five polls surveyed in the period after the GOP convention that have been released so far, Trump has experienced a three-point bounce relative to his median the week before Republicans gathered in Cleveland. That’s clearly a small sample, but put it all together and Trump has taken a small, one-point lead in the RealClearPolitics average, while Clinton has an equally small one-point lead in the HuffPost Pollster average (that average is less sensitive to short-term changes). Our advice would be to wait before drawing conclusions: Clinton still has an opportunity to get a bounce from her convention, and we also may have some more polls later in the week to further measure the size of Trump’s bounce.
For the time being, we’re sticking with our current Electoral College ratings, which show Clinton with 347 electoral votes safe, likely, and leaning to her, with 191 safe/likely/leaning Trump. We agree that if the election were held today, it would almost certainly be closer than that — and that Trump could very well win. But the election isn’t being held today — it’s actually still about 100 days away. Our ratings are a forecast for November, not a reflection of the day-to-day state of play, and we still see Clinton with an edge.
If the dust settles from the conventions the next few weeks and the numbers are still what they are today, then we very well may have to reassess. We’ve long suggested that a generic Republican may have been favored to win this election, but that Trump wasn’t a generic Republican. But maybe we’re wrong about that, and that the same factors that would boost a generic Republican, like a desire for change after eight years of Democratic rule, are enough to get Trump over the finish line, too. Sean Trende, friend of the Crystal Ball and astute RealClearPolitics analyst, has been urging caution over regarding Clinton as a big favorite, and his latest column is well worth reading in that regard.
Trump, in spite of everything, is hanging tough, and it seems like the vast majority of Republicans have embraced him as their own.
If the millions upon millions of largely unanswered campaign dollars that the Clinton campaign and its allies are pouring into the swing states are having an effect, it’s hard to say there is an obvious one. Perhaps the Trump strategy of holding his more limited resources back for later in the campaign is a wise one. In fact, there is scant evidence that early ad spending makes a lasting impression, although the Obama and Romney 2012 campaigns would disagree — those professionals believe Obama’s early ad blitz against Romney helped negatively define the Republican. But it may be that the early Clinton campaign ads are not making much of a difference.
Meanwhile, there are two days left to go at the Democratic National Convention. On Tuesday evening, Clinton became the first woman to be officially nominated by a major party for president. The stand-out event of the roll call vote was surely Bernie Sanders asking the convention to nominate Clinton by acclamation following the vote counting for every delegation. Sanders’ move was obviously a well-choreographed attempt to improve party unity, a key goal of the convention. But will it work? Thus far, polling has been a bit mixed on where Sanders voters lie. Pew found that 90% of “consistent” Sanders backers plan to back Clinton, which suggests there will be relative unity among Democratic and Democratic-leaning identifiers. But as for Sanders voters overall, the jury is still out to some degree, and there were some limited protests inside and outside the convention on Tuesday night.
Just like at the Republican confab, there are clearly some delegates and attendees here who have little use for Clinton, who is now the nominee. One Sanders die-hard told us she prefers four years of Trump to eight years of Clinton (as if either outcome would be guaranteed in 2020). But we also think the number of true #NeverHillary Democrats is small, just like the number of true #NeverTrump Republicans is also small. Conventions are supposed to be a positive public relations show for the party that spur party unity, and the pageant isn’t just for the TV viewers — it’s also for the delegates in the hall, a kind of shock therapy that wears down the resistance of the holdouts.
Despite some rocky moments, the GOP convention probably helped the Republicans achieve a greater level of unity. The same is probably true of the Democratic convention. Just think about it — on the first day of both the RNC and DNC, there was some very public dissent on both convention floors. But by the time of the nominating votes themselves, there were few major waves at either convention. Even Ted Cruz’s non-endorsement of Trump on the third night probably hurt Cruz more than it hurt Trump. And it does not seem like Clinton will have to suffer through a Cruz-esque speech tonight or Thursday. There’s the potential for further dissent at the DNC but day two was better for the party on that front than day one.
Clinton’s own speech looms large over the remainder of the proceedings. She clearly has a lot of work to do to improve her very weak favorability ratings. A little contrition for her email antics might be wise. Whenever the Trump campaign does go on the air, they will have some potent ads to cut on the issue, and whatever Clinton has done to try to defuse the issue has so far been clearly inadequate.