Feedback
Politics

First Read: An OK Speech, But a Powerful Convention

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

Hillary Clinton accepts historic nomination, slams Trump, lauds Sanders 3:19

An OK speech, but a powerful convention

PHILADELPHIA -- Hillary Clinton's speech Thursday night accepting her party's presidential nomination was OK; she is never going to rhetorically outshine President Obama or her husband Bill Clinton. But what she and Democrats did achieve was produce a powerful convention that contrasted with Donald Trump's last week in Cleveland. While the GOP convention had high-profile no-shows (the Bushes, Mitt Romney, John Kasich) and a speech by a candidate who didn't endorse Trump (Ted Cruz), the Democrats trotted out Obama, Bill Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama, and yes Bernie Sanders, who all testified on Hillary Clinton's behalf. While the GOP convention focused on police, the Democrats featured both police and the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Sandra Bland. And while the GOP convention highlighted the violence that immigrants had committed and Benghazi, the Democrats introduced Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim-American Army captain, who delivered arguably the week's most stinging critique against Trump. "Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities, women, judges, even his own party leadership. He vows to build walls and ban us from this country. Donald Trump, you are asking Americans to trust you with our future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the U.S. Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy" -- as he took out a pocket U.S. Constitution.

Chaotic Cleveland vs. Disciplined Philadelphia

In totality, the Democratic convention itself was flawless -- with two exceptions: 1) the Debbie Wasserman Schultz mess; and 2) the few dozen Sanders delegates who disrupted Clinton last night. Taken together, the two conventions matched the persona of their nominee: Cleveland was chaotic; Philadelphia was disciplined.

"We'll fix it together"

As for Clinton's speech, she perhaps made her most forceful contrast with Trump by highlighting his "I alone can fix it" line. She said: "Don't believe anyone who says, 'I alone can fix it.' Yes. Those were actually Donald Trump's words in Cleveland. And they should set off alarm bells for all of us… Isn't he forgetting troops on the front lines, police officers and firefighters who run toward danger, doctors and nurses who care for us? Teachers who change lives, entrepreneurs who see possibilities in every problem, mothers who lost children to violence and are building a movement to keep other kids safe? He's forgetting every last one of us. Americans don't say, 'I alone fix can it.' We say, 'We'll fix it together.'" (On "Meet the Press" last weekend, Trump said his "I alone can fix" line was meant as a contrast with Clinton, not that he would do it by himself.) NBC's Alex Seitz-Wald has more: "The 'stronger together' theme helped Clinton reach out to embrace Bernie Sanders supporters with one arm and Republicans wary of Donald Trump with the other. She leaned on her Methodist faith and the iconography of martial patriotism to seamlessly marry a progressive agenda with small-c conservative values. 'Whatever party you belong to, or if you belong to no party at all, if you share these beliefs, this is your campaign,' she said. 'I will be a President for Democrats, Republicans, and independents."

Hillary's heavily progressive speech

While Clinton said she'll be a president for all Americans, her speech was the most progressive acceptance speech we've heard from a Democratic nominee. Consider:

  • "Bernie Sanders and I will work together to make college tuition-free for the middle class and debt-free for all."
  • "Wall Street, corporations, and the super-rich are going to start paying their fair share of taxes."
  • "If necessary, we will pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United."
  • "I believe Wall Street can never, ever be allowed to wreck Main Street again."

Make no mistake: Clinton has campaigned for many of these issues for months, and President Obama shares many of those same views. But taken together, you can tell the influence that Bernie Sanders had on Clinton's campaign and her speech last night.

Donald Trump: Hillary Clinton's DNC speech was from 'a fantasy world' 2:57

Trump's response: "It's a speech delivered from a fantasy universe, not the reality we live in today"

Trump responded to Clinton's speech with this statement: "Hillary Clinton's speech was an insulting collection of clichés and recycled rhetoric. She spent the evening talking down to the American people she's looked down on her whole life. Hillary Clinton talks about unity, about E Pluribus Unum, but her globalist agenda denies American citizens the protections to which they are all entitled - tearing us apart. Her radical amnesty plan will take jobs, resources and benefits from the most vulnerable citizens of the United States and give them to the citizens of other countries. Her refusal to even say the words 'Radical Islam', or to mention her disaster in Libya, or her corrupt email scheme, all show how little she cares about the safety of the American people. It's a speech delivered from a fantasy universe, not the reality we live in today."

How to judge the bounce

In the next week, we'll likely to see a slew of polls taken after BOTH conventions. But don't look at just the head-to-head numbers. Examine two other things: 1) the favorable/unfavorable ratings to see if the conventions helped Clinton's and Trump's popularity; and 2) the combined percentages for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, to see if more Democrats and Republicans are coming home.

On the trail

The day after the convention, Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine hold a rally in Philadelphia at noon ET, and then begin on their bus tour through Pennsylvania and Ohio. They make stops in Hatfield, PA at 4:00 pm ET and Harrisburg, PA at 8:30 pm ET… Meanwhile, Donald Trump campaigns in Colorado, hitting Colorado Springs at 4:00 pm ET and Denver at 9:00 pm ET.. And Mike Pence is in Indiana before visiting Lima, OH at 7:00 pm ET.