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First Read: Democrats Bounce Back

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.
Delegates dance as singer Paul Simon performs on the DNC stage.ROBYN BECK / AFP - Getty Images

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.

Democrats bounce back after rough start

PHILADELPHIA — Talk about a miserable 30-hour stretch for Democrats here in the City of Brotherly Love, starting from Sunday afternoon. The party chair resigned due to the WikiLeaks email release. Division broke out on the convention floor. And even Bernie Sanders was booed by some of his own backers after he urged support for Hillary Clinton earlier in the day on Monday. It all made last week’s disunity at the GOP convention in Cleveland look like an episode of “Downton Abbey” compared with the Democrats’ “Mad Max: Fury Road.” But in the primetime hour (and a half, since they ran late), Democrats bounced back. It all started when comedian Sarah Silverman, a Sanders supporter, told disruptive Bernie delegates, “To the ‘Bernie-or-Bust’ people, you’re being ridiculous.” It carried over to First Lady Michelle Obama’s rousing speech, Elizabeth Warren’s attack on Donald Trump, and then Bernie Sanders’ repeated endorsement of Clinton in the final address of the night. “Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States,” he said, which Ted Cruz never did for Trump. The resistance from Sanders’ supporters is real, but keep this in mind: According to our July NBC/WSJ poll, 76% of Sanders supporters said they were voting for Clinton vs. 11% for Trump. So this is a very vocal minority.

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Michelle Obama goes straight after Trump: “Don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country isn’t great”

Although she didn’t mention him by name, Michelle Obama went directly at Donald Trump. “That is what Barack and I think about every day as we try to guide and protect our girls through the challenges of this unusual life in the spotlight, how we urge them to ignore those who question their father's citizenship or faith,” she said. “How we insist that the hateful language they hear from public figures on TV does not represent the true spirit of this country. How we explain that when someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don't stoop to their level. No, our motto is, when they go low, we go high.” The first lady added, “Because of Hillary Clinton my daughters and all our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be President of the United States. So don't let anyone ever tell you that this country isn't great. That somehow we need to make it great again. Because this right now is the greatest country on earth.” (Michelle Obama also had a message for the Bernie-or-Bust crowd: "When [Hillary] didn't win the nomination eight years ago, she didn't get angry or disillusioned.") The first lady’s speech is a reminder: The most effective speeches are the ones that speak to voters OUTSIDE the convention hall. And when Michelle Obama talked about Hillary Clinton (to draw a contrast with Trump), she took the role-model route, which is an easier character-witness argument to make.

Sanders: I won the issue argument

That is maybe the best way to view Sanders’ speech and endorsement of Clinton last night. “It is no secret that Hillary Clinton and I disagree on a number of issues. That is what this campaign has been about. That is what democracy is about,” he said. “But I am happy to tell you that at the Democratic Platform Committee, there was a significant coming together between the two campaigns and we produced, by far, the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party.” More Sanders: “Our job now is to see that strong Democratic platform implemented by a Democratic-controlled Senate, by a Democratic House and a Hillary Clinton presidency – and I am going to do all that I can to make that happen.”

Day Two lineup

Tonight’s featured speaker is Bill Clinton, according to a Clinton campaign official, and other speakers will give “Fights of Her Life” testimonials about Hillary Clinton’s work for children and families. The Clinton-vs.-Sanders roll call is expected to take place between 6:00 pm ET and 7:00 pm ET, which will result in the first woman being officially nominated for president of a major political party. If you are keeping track, NBC’s final pledged delegate count was Clinton 2219 (55%) and Sanders 1832 (45%). And among all delegates -- pledged plus superdelegates -- it’s Clinton 2817 (60%), Sanders 1879 (40%).

That ‘90s Show

With Bill Clinton tonight’s featured speaker, the reaction to him from the audience will be interesting, especially given how much the Democratic Party has changed from the 1990s, as our colleague Beth Fouhy observes. From “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to a full embrace of gay marriage. From NAFTA to “Down with TPP.” And from “The era of Big Government is over” to the current Democratic platform. In fairness to Bill Clinton, the political world was MUCH different 20 years ago: Before 1992, Democrats had lost three-straight presidential elections and five out of the last six. But the party -- and country -- has changed since then. And that change will meet Bill Clinton directly tonight. One other point: Bill Clinton has delivered plenty of convention speeches before, but never one about his wife as the presidential nominee. It all adds to tonight’s drama.

Clinton camp stops advertising in Colorado

Given all of the news here in Philadelphia, perhaps Monday’s biggest news was about Colorado -- in the Clinton campaign’s decision to pull down its TV ads there, because it feels confident enough about its standing versus Trump in that battleground state. The campaign, however, will continue to advertise in eight other states – Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. An NBC/WSJ/Marist poll before the conventions had Clinton ahead in Colorado by eight percentage points, 43%-35%.

NBC|SurveyMonkey tracking poll

No bounce for Trump: The latest NBC|SurveyMonkey online tracking poll (July 18-24) finds the presidential race at Clinton 46%, Trump 45% -- unchanged from a week ago. “Trump, however, now leads Clinton by 2 points (41 to 39 percent) in a four-way general election matchup with Libertarian Gary Johnson (10 points) and Green Party candidate Jill Stein (5 points). This is up 1 point from last week.”

On the trail

Donald Trump addresses the VFW conference in Charlotte, NC at 9:30 am ET.