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What Hillary Clinton's Convention Speech Needs To Accomplish

Huffington Post
First Posted: 08-26-08 06:39 PM   |   Updated: 09-26-08 05:12 AM

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Hillary And Chelsea

With Democrats hoping that Hillary Clinton's speech tonight at the Democratic Convention will bring closure to the bruised feelings after a long primary campaign, the pundits are weighing in on what Hillary needs to do to accomplish that.

Chris Cillizza: Five Things Hillary Needs To Do Tonight

1. Acknowledge her supporters: Clinton won more than 18 million votes in the primaries and, for many of those who voted for her, the candidacy was less a campaign than a cause. (Side note: Clinton's campaign did a poor job of putting those passionate advocates front and center -- allowing Obama to look like the movement candidate with grassroots energy behind him.) Given how strongly many Democrats feel about her, Clinton must spend some time in her speech making note of the sacrifices made by those who worked and voted for her. By revisiting what was accomplished during her campaign, Clinton, in effect, primes the pump with her supporters for a pitch for Obama.

2. Use Humor: One of Clinton's secret weapons, which she used only sparingly in the primaries, is her sense of humor. Hard to believe for some but the New York senator is genuinely funny and thinks quickly on her feet. Humor is a great disarmer and Clinton would do well to throw a few self-deprecating references into her speech tonight a la Al Gore's now-famous: "I used to be the next president of the United States" line.

George Stephanopoulos: Hillary Clinton's Challenge Tonight

Which brings us to Hillary Clinton's challenge tonight. She doesn't want to be blamed for an Obama loss. And if she doesn't convince her voters that she really, really wants Obama to win, he just might lose. Look at the numbers. Right now only 70 percent of Hillary Clinton voters say they support Obama. Dig a little deeper, and you see that even that number is soft. Fewer than half of those voters -- 43 percent -- say they'll definitely support Obama. They still might stay home, throw their vote to Nader or Barr, or go for McCain. That's on top of the 30 percent of Hillary voters who say they won't vote for Obama.

John Dickerson: Obama Aides Hope Clinton Can Bring Her Voters On Board

Obama aides say that Clinton's speech will bring along her voters. Yes, they want her to say that Barack Obama is great and that John McCain would continue George Bush's policies. But what they really want is for her to tell her voters to come on board. She's made this pitch before, but at the convention she has heavy symbolism in her favor. The most symbolic act she may make is to step in during the roll-call vote to ask that Obama be named the nominee by acclamation.

Will this work? It will almost certainly work in the hall. The Democrats in Denver are ready to cheer. But what about in the rest of the country? The Clinton supporters I've been talking to are a stubborn lot. They don't find her as persuasive as they once did because they think she's supporting Obama only to keep her political future alive.

NPR's Brian Naylor: Clinton's Task: Bring The Party Together

Hillary Clinton would surely like to be speaking to delegates at the Democratic National Convention as their presumptive nominee.

Instead, the delegates pledged to her will be lamenting what might have been when she speaks Tuesday night. And party leaders hope the rumblings of dissent will change into cheers of support for the man who is about to become the party's nominee, Barack Obama.

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