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The Democratic National Convention Wednesday featured what had to be among the densest concentrations of marquee names on a single night of a party confab, including the sitting president, his No. 2, and the debut of the party’s new vice presidential nominee.
But the night, like the entire convention thus far, could not be condensed into a single coherent theme beyond, "Let's elect a sane, competent person,” as unlikely surrogate Michael Bloomberg ad-libbed. Here are six big takeaways from the night:
Hillary has a team, Donald doesn’t
There were so many big name speakers in Wednesday night's lineup that Democrats had to cut Sen. Sherrod Brown, for time (he’ll speak Thursday).
"There has never been a man or a woman — not me, not Bill, nobody — more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States," President Obama said of his former rival, Hillary Clinton. Trump is essentially a party of one, who has no one with the gravitas or with the willingness to make a similar claim on his behalf.
Bloomberg, who wholeheartedly endorsed Clinton a night after Bernie Sanders did, pummeled Trump with billionaire-on-billionaire attacks that mocked the real estate mogul's financial acumen. “Trump says he wants to run the nation like he’s run his business. God help us!” Bloomberg said. “I’m a New Yorker, and I know a con when we see one."
But it remains to be seen if the surfeit of endorsements will actually pay off for Clinton, or, in a populist election year, if Donald Trump can spin them as only further proof that she is a product of a corrupt establishment that spans partisan boundaries.
Trump’s World War III
While Trump complained about the lack of flags at the Democratic National Convention, Democrats fielded a former CIA director and secretary of defense, a retired Navy Admiral, a former Marine Corps captain, a president, a vice president, and a retinue of congressional foreign policy experts.
All essentially made one simple point: Donald Trump might very well start a nuclear war, potentially even by accident, if he’s president.
National security was almost completely absent from the first two nights of the DNC, and ISIS has still hardly come up. But the third night’s emphasis on national security was auspiciously timed. Earlier in the day, Trump at a press conference seemed to call on Russia to hack Clinton’s emails.
“This morning, he personally invited Russia to hack us. That's not law and order. That's criminal intent,” said retired Adm. John Hutson.
“Donald, you're not fit to polish John McCain's boots,” Hutson added, referring to Trump’s insults of the Arizona Senator and Vietnam veteran.
Throughout the night, Democrats suggested that it was Americans’ duty to stop Trump, adopting themes of patriotism that Republicans typically own.
“They say they believe in ‘Country First.’ What a joke,” Senate Minority Leader Reid said. “Republicans who won’t stand up to Trump believe in one thing and one thing only: ‘Party First.’
Gun control is no longer a dirty word
Gun control was absent from the 2012 Democratic National Convention, which occurred just months before the Sandy Hook massacre that re-launched a moribund movement for new gun safety measures.
Gabby Giffords, the former Arizona Congresswoman who was partially paralyzed in a 2012 shooting, brought that year's convention to the tears as she made one of her first public appearances since the massacre, barely able to speak.
This time, she returned with a full voice and a strong gait, having started a new gun control group with husband and fellow speaker, astronaut Mike Kelly. “Speaking is difficult for me," Giffords said," but come January, I want to say these two words: Madam President."
And the crowd grew quiet and emotional as they heard from family members of the victims of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting.
What does it all add up to?
The question still lingering after three nights centers on the sum of these parts. The message of steady leadership was well buttressed, as was that of Trump as dangerous demagogue, but a coherent vision for Clinton is harder to pin down.
Democrats chafe at the idea that they can’t pursue multiple lines of attacks or policy goals at once, and their approach may prove superior. But almost everyone in America could tell you that Trump aims to "Make America Great Again." What would they say about Clinton?
Indeed, according to Facebook, the four most posted moments of the night are all Trump disses.
Biden’s swan song
Vice President Joe Biden brought delegates from a hush to a roar Wednesday as he gave what could be one of the best received speeches of his career. Biden will be out of office for the first time in nearly half a century soon, having never fulfilled his long-held dream of giving a speech on the final night of a convention as the party’s nominee.
But he can feel good about going out on the speech he delivered Wednesday, which had the crowd so rapt that “malarkey” became a huge applause line.
“No major party nominee in the history of this nation has ever known less or has ever been less prepared” than Trump, Biden said, taking the inverse line from Obama.
Rejecting the dire portrait of America painted at last week’s Republican National Convention, Biden expressed his optimism succinctly as he closed: “C’mon, this is America!”
Tim Kaine is a walking dad joke and it’s great
Obama's VP spent five months in the White House before The Onion helped create the meme of Joe Biden, washing his Pontiac Thunderbird shirtless in the White House driveway. But a caricature of Kaine was born on his very first night as Clinton’s running mate: If Obama was a cool dad, Kaine is a dad dad.
Standing on easily the biggest stage of his career, Kaine started off a bit unsteadily, but rose to the occasion in his own goofy way, which featured an endearing Trump impersonation.
Kaine's "aw shucks" Midwestern humility is refreshing in cycle dominated by two deeply polarizing candidates. But it was hard for him to stand out in such a strong lineup.
That may not be his role, but it leaves the Democratic ticket bereft of a powerful orator, since Clinton has often admitted that big speeches are not her forte. Still, Democrats have Obama.
The apotheosis of Barack Obama
The fresco that gilds the underside of the U.S. Capitol dome is called the “Apotheosis of George Washington,” and judging by his reception Wednesday night, Democrats may put Obama up there one day.
On his way out of office, still young but much greyer then when he debuted on the Democratic convention state exactly 12 years ago, Obama is now the Democrats’ elder statesman, moral authority and most effective spokesperson.
There were more than a few chants of “four more years!” as some wondered how many more terms Democrats would give Obama if they could. They can’t — so he poured himself into bolstering Clinton.
"For four years I had a front-row seat to her intelligence and to her judgment,” he said. “I have confidence, as I leave this stage tonight, that the Democratic Party is in good hands."