Sabato's Crystal Ball

Live From Denver

Daily Reports from the Democratic National Convention

Dan Keyserling, Deputy Communications Director, U.Va. Center for Politics August 26th, 2008

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Tuesday

When I was growing up in Washington, veteran political operatives had a saying: “Never underestimate the Clintons.” Just when you thought they were conquered by scandal, or defeated by formidable opponents, they would rise from the ashes stronger, more tenacious, and even more determined to preserve their legacy as Democratic icons. This entire week, commentators made the mistake of underestimating the Clintons. This entire week, pundits cynically predicted that the Clintons would somehow undercut Obama’s candidacy, that they were so bitter they couldn’t bring themselves to help their fellow Democrat. Just wait and see, they said.

The pundits and the commentators couldn’t have been more wrong.

Tonight, Hillary Clinton delivered one of the best, and certainly the most important speeches of her political career. After a brief bout of sore loserdom earlier in the summer, Hillary appeared tonight luminous and genuinely eager to help Barack Obama win what she couldn’t. It’s tempting here to insert some snide comment about how craven and calculating the Clintons tend to be, but Hillary’s speech wasn’t either. She was awesome—in every sense of the word. Not only did she deliver a full-throated endorsement of Barack Obama for president, she did so with humor, with style, and with the wisdom to ask this question: “Were you in this campaign just for me? Or were you in it for that young Marine… that mom struggling with cancer while raising her kids… that boy and his mom surviving on the minimum wage? Were you in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible?”

Judging by the roaring applause and the sound of folding seats buckling during each of the standing ovations, Hillary struck a crucial chord. From where I was sitting, the convention hall looked as unified as ever.

Now, we will never know if the Clintons actually mean all the niceties they say, or if Bill truly thinks Barack Obama is ready to lead. We probably won’t ever know the Clintons’ true intentions, and Democrats won’t ever completely overcome post-primary disunity. But in some ways it doesn’t matter. Actions speak louder than words. And tonight, Hillary’s actions were deafening.