DNC 2016: Hillary Clinton’s big challenge tonight

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and a disproportionate share of those who believe his sunny speech on her behalf. (Ruth Fremson / The New York Times)

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and a disproportionate share of those who believe his sunny speech on her behalf. (Ruth Fremson / The New York Times)

Poor Hillary Clinton.

Not only does the Democratic nominee, not known for her soaring rhetorical skills, have to follow a pair of stem winders from President Obama and Vice President Biden Wednesday night. She must also feel mighty tempted to walk back some of the happy talk they dispensed, which the public shows little if any sign of believing.

The central tension in this election on the Democratic side has been acknowledging the deep public dissatisfaction with where things stand for America in 2016, while not actively tarnishing the legacy of the Democratic president of the past 7.5 years. That has been especially true for Clinton, who has effectively been running for his third term. She had to do that to keep the Obama coalition intact, but hardly anyone outside that group — nor many of the hard-left Democrats attracted to Bernie Sanders’ candidacy — is sure that’s such a good idea.

As I noted last week in a post about the “dark” picture Donald Trump painted in his own convention speech, two-thirds of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track — with a 44-point gap between the percent saying wrong track and those saying right track. That’s an average of polls. One pollster that has been asking the same question over time is Gallup, and here’s how its current figure compares to those at the same stage of the past several presidential elections and how the party in control of the White House at the time fared:

1992: minus-63; lost

1996: minus-19; held

2000: plus-26; lost

2004: minus-16; held

2008: minus-64; lost

2012: minus-41; held

2016: minus-65; ??

(Note: In 1988 and before, Gallup did not ask this question at this time of year.)

Now, first of all, that track record demonstrates it’s difficult for a party to win three straight presidential elections; in fact, the GOP’s three wins from 1980-88 are the only time it’s happened since Truman made it five in a row for the Democrats in 1948. It also demonstrates why: By the end of two terms by one party, the country tends to feel the need to go in a different direction.

Nothing about that data, including the low feelings Americans currently hold, indicates the Democrats should win a third straight term. Their hope hinges on the notion Trump is not only dangerous and unpredictable, but pessimistic. On Wednesday, Biden and Obama tried to counter that not only by portraying Clinton as safe and steady, but by making it seem extra sunny in Philadelphia.

“(W)hile this nation has been tested by war and recession and all manner of challenge,” Obama declared, “I stand before you again tonight, after almost two terms as your President, to tell you I am even more optimistic about the future of America. How could I not be, after all we’ve achieved together?”

That may come as cold comfort to those who are still without work (years after the recession ended, millions of working-age Americans remain out of the labor force) or who are earning less than before (real median household income remains 6.5 percent below the 2007 level). It sounds discordant to those who by 2008 had come not to expect another terrorist attack on the homeland, and who now read about lethal ISIS attacks on Americans or some of our closest allies with alarming frequency, while the current administration seems too inept to prevent them. It rings hollow to those who went from having low-cost health insurance plans that denied their claims to high-cost insurance plans that set high deductibles before they’ll start paying for claims. It beggars belief who have watched shooting by and of police officers become staples of our news headlines.

It’s not “fear mongering” or unpatriotic to point out those kinds of things, or at least Democrats didn’t think so in 2004 or 2008.

Understandably, Obama doesn’t want to be remembered for those things. But we aren’t voting for a political epitaph this November; we’re electing someone to deal with the real problems we face.

If Hillary Clinton is too realistic about our problems, she risks alienating Obama voters. If she is too blase about them, she risks being dismissed by independents. Whether she can thread the needle tonight will go a long way toward determining the trajectory of this race in the weeks to come.

Reader Comments 0

247 comments
lvg
lvg

So who exactly is Donald threatening physical violence on? He must be getting ideas from his idol, Putin

WaPo journalist better be careful. Polonium leave no traces

lvg
lvg

@TheBrewer @lvg You know what I wanted to. I wanted to hit a couple of those speakers so hard,” Trump said during a Thursday rally in Iowa. “I was gonna hit one guy in particular, a very little guy. I was gonna hit this guy so hard his head would spin and he wouldn’t know what the hell happened.”

Trump did not elaborate on the identity of “little guy” he wanted to commit felony assault against.


Fusion.net/story/331412/donald-trump-attack-little-guy/

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

Rafe nailed it in an earlier post. The underlying Democrat elite strategy introduced during the Obama administration is to maintain a slow growth economy keeping GDP low and a federal reserve that keeps interest rates low while printing a ton of money that keeps the economy from failing. This economic strategy retards strong economic growth and job growth, so the Democrats can continue building the dependent class as a growing voting block. They point their finger at the wealthy but in reality they encourage wealth growth among the wealthiest Americans, while suppressing economic growth among the middle class and the poor. Concurrent with their economic voting block growth strategy they weaken our military and our status as a world super power. They believe that a weak America both economically and militarily will promote world piece and a global government. They're banking that uncontrolled immigration along with a growing population of low information voters will produce party dominance in American politics.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@SGTGrit There must be a sane thought in this drivel somewhere, but I have not been able to find it.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@MarkVV @SGTGrit 

Yeah, I understand...you're in the low information category. I never viewed you as being among the D elite.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@SGTGrit @MarkVV Your answer clearly show your lack of intelligence, just like your initial post.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@SGTGrit You are right, you will notice that the H1-B and H2-B  visa is the favorite tool of the cheap labor donor class GOP, the Dems prefer the unskilled refugees and fence jumpers, which goes to prove our point about developing and maintaining a dependent underclass.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@SGTGrit So, the “strategy introduced during the Obama administration is to maintain a slow growth economy keeping GDP low.”

 Can anybody who is sane claim something like that? There is one thing to accuse the Administration of not being competent to grow the economy, but to claim that it intentionally keep the economy down? So that the people would be unsatisfied and vote for – the Republicans?

And the following idiocy:

“They believe that a weak America both economically and militarily will promote world piece [sic] and a global government.

Again, if anybody believes such a conspirational insanity, he/she should be institutionalized.

MarkVV
MarkVV

I mentioned the "impotent dismay" of Hillary's attackers. All you need to do is to read TheBrewer's posts to have it demonstrated.

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

@TheBrewer @MarkVV

You seem very much like someone who used to post here previously under a different handle. Obviously I'm right, Captain!

MarkVV
MarkVV

The impotent dismay of the Republicans and especially of Trump supporters after the excellent speech by Hillary Clinton and many reminders of Trump’s lack of qualification is palpable here on the blog. 

TheBrewer
TheBrewer

@MarkVV


If her speech was so great why did her husband fall asleep?

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Powerful moment when the Muslim father of a slain US Soldier took out his copy of the US Constitution.


YOU CANT BAN A PEOPLE BASED ON THEIR RELIGION DONALD YOU BIGOT


NOT HERE. NOT EVER !

TheBrewer
TheBrewer

@Hedley_Lammar

"YOU CANT BAN A PEOPLE BASED ON THEIR RELIGION DONALD YOU BIGOT'

So what you're saying is you're fine with gays getting killed by muslim terrorists. Thanks for your honesty.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@lvg @RafeHollister @Hedley_Lammar If people were smart they would say smart things, but the right to free speech is contained in the first amendment.  


Does the preamble affect the rest of the sentence?

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Some credible reports that Comrade Trump has been given fake security briefings.


I'm sure the fear is that he would pass that info right on to Putin.


Our Generals are well aware he is not prepared to be CIC. 

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@Hedley_Lammar Well, he certainly wouldn't sell them our uranium supply all for a big donation to the Clinton Slush fund.

TheBrewer
TheBrewer

I can not wait for the debates. Hillary will not be able to hide behind anyone. Her cankles will not be able to hold up her 240 pound body when she starts to cry. 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@TheBrewer @Hedley_Lammar Its a tougher arena.


I understand you are a Trump voter. And therefore highly uneducated.


So you aren't going to get it.


Like I said have a nice day trolling. 


The stupidity you spout here people are reading. And it helps our side.


Keep it up.

TheBrewer
TheBrewer

@Hedley_Lammar @TheBrewer

The stupidity you spout here people are reading. And it helps our side."

Oh the irony. Helps your side? 

Sure thing there pal. 

TheBrewer
TheBrewer

So far Ivg claims that Hillary Clinton never voted for the Iraq War, never lied about anything and that Trump caused cops to get shot by BLM.


Gotta love Ivg. 

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

I couldn't believe the disrespect shown for the Medal of Honor winner and that General they found that would endorse Hillary.  


If you want to vote for a political party whose military heroes are Beau Bergdahl, John Kerry, and Jane Fonda vote for Hillary.


If you want a party that hopes to create a permanent underclass of unemployed, unskilled, and government dependent individuals who depend on and vote consistently for the Dems, who will forever vow to support them, then vote for the Dems.


If you think that some people are so important to protecting us and serving our every need, that they need not follow the law, then vote for the Democrats.


If you want a party who thinks the biggest problem facing the world and America is climate change, then vote for the Dems.


If you think the police are mostly responsible for all the racial problems in America then vote for the Dems.


If you like living in an alternate universe where everything is getting better, the government is efficient, effective and there for you no matter what, then vote Democrat. 

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@RafeHollister Funny that in their tribute to the veterans, they showed the RUSSIAN Black sea fleet.  Who's in bed with the Russians again?

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@RafeHollister @xxxzzz Actually, it seems they have been working with the Russians a long time!  That mistake I mentioned was apparently from the 2012 convention.