Jennifer Rubin: How the Dems can pull away

By Jennifer Rubin comment

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with running-mate Senator Tim Kaine. Photo / AP
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with running-mate Senator Tim Kaine. Photo / AP

After the Republican circus in Cleveland, Hillary Clinton's campaign might have been tempted to cancel its own convention and tell the voters, "We rest our case".

But, of course, as bad as the Republican convention went - and it went very badly - Clinton cannot rely on voters' disgust with Donald Trump to elect her president. In 2012, Mitt Romney learned it is not enough to slam the other guy.

Clinton got off on the right foot on Saturday by picking former governor and current Senator Tim Kaine - a Catholic, Spanish-speaking, moderate Democrat with a sunny disposition.

It was a confident pick insofar as she no longer saw the need to shore up support on her left flank. Trump helped her to do that by scaring the living daylights out of liberals concerned about civil liberties, the environment, Obamacare and the rest of their agenda.

Kaine is popular in Virginia, a critical swing state, and easily passes the first test for any VP: Would you feel comfortable if he had to step into the presidency? (Many voters will agree that a Kaine-Mike Pence race rather than a Clinton-Trump race would assure that the country got a decent, competent president.)

This week, she will have two tasks. Firstly, she must highlight just how dangerous Trump is - by using his own words and conduct to reveal how unfit he is for high office. Secondly, she needs to give a hopeful, optimistic vision of the future and some concrete proposals to increase her own favourable ratings.

In doing the latter she will also emphasise how pessimistic Trump is about America and how lacking in real solutions he is. (Unlike the GOP, Clinton's party is largely unified so she need not waste time trying to unify it; in Philadelphia, she immediately can pivot to the general election.)

On Saturday, she started off strong. With regard to Trump, she told the crowd in Florida:

"No matter what your political leanings, I think we can all agree that never in the history of conventions, certainly, but I think even more broadly, have we moved forward together by pointing fingers and scapegoating and blaming people instead of rolling up our sleeves, getting a plan together, and then working to achieve it. . . . I've never heard of an American leader, or at least someone who wants to be an American leader, claiming that he's all we need. That's not a democracy, my friends. As I recall, we had a revolution to make sure we didn't have someone who said, 'I can fix it alone.'

"The other thing he said that really shocked me - it is hard to know where to start, isn't it? Well, last night Donald told us, 'I am your voice.' Well, I don't think he speaks for most Americans, do you?"

As many #NeverTrump Republicans have, she lambasted Trump for his unremittingly negative take on America. ("But I've never known America to quit on ourselves. I've never known us to give up in the face of tough challenges. I've never known us to basically retreat into the kind of isolationism that was being advertised at their convention. That is not who we are. Those are not the values that made this a great country. And don't ever forget: We are a great country already!")

Clinton also hinted at the more positive vision she intends to lay out. Hers is a kinder, gentler America. ("We need more respect between and among our fellow Americans. We need to be listening more to each other. The last thing we need are leaders who try to divide us even more than we are.") And her approach is that of a pragmatic problem-solver: "I will work every single day to make your dreams come true, to make you believe that America's future can be even better than our past. We are a forward-looking nation, aren't we? And I know that if we set our goals and we work to achieve them, we will. It has always been thus. This country has always delivered for the American people." That strikes as precisely the right contrast to Trump's angry, gloomy vision.


WHAT CLINTON SHOULD DO

1 She's going to need to convince Americans she has a plan not simply for reducing inequality but for increasing growth and jobs. A condensed four- or five-point plan would be smart.

2 The convention will need to humanise her. Actual women and children helped by Clinton (whether at home or abroad) and former Republican and Democratic colleagues can show her to be a more empathetic person, one grounded in the real world and someone who can decrease and not exaggerate party, racial and economic divisions.

3 She'll need to reclaim her advantage on foreign policy by presenting a responsible approach to international leadership.

4 She can begin to pick up support from independents and Republicans by reassuring them of her willingness to work with the other side and appoint like-minded independents and Republicans to important Cabinet posts. She can present a vast array of business leaders, former military officials and philanthropic figures to attest to her virtues.


The biggest danger to Clinton is overconfidence.

She needs a meticulously executed convention. She must project confidence, define a centrist agenda and soften her image.

The temptation for Democrats is to turn the convention into a pander-a-thon doling out goodies to every group. She'd be wise instead to focus on universal themes and proposals that benefit all of us (education, infrastructure, energy independence, etc.)

If she does that this week, she will come out of the fortnight of back-to-back conventions with a head of steam. With a paid ad campaign, she can freeze that more positive image in the minds of voters so that when people finish watching the Olympics and return to work and school in the northern autumn she'll be able to pull away.

- Washington Post

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