Will the DNC reshape perceptions of Clinton?

Hillary Clinton’s focus this week lays on reintroducing herself to the Democratic Party and the American people. Former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to speak Tuesday night.

Andrew Harnik/ AP
Sen. Tim Kaine (D) of Virginia accompanied by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally at Florida International University Panther Arena in Miami, on Saturday, July 23, 2016.

As Hillary Clinton enters evening two of the four-day Democratic National Convention, she and her campaign are looking for the opportunity to reintroduce herself as a person and as a candidate to both her party and to the American public.

Ordinarily, the Democratic and Republican conventions serve to aid the general population in further discovering the nominees as people and as candidates. This year, however, both Mrs. Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump faced a different scenario heading into their conventions in Philadelphia and Cleveland, respectively.  

"It's slightly unique for Clinton and Trump because they're incredibly well-known," Dan Pfeiffer, the former senior adviser to President Obama, told CNN. While previously candidates could spend the four-day conventions acquainting constituents with their personalities and policies, "for Clinton and Trump, because they're so well-known, you're reframing the narrative."

While Clinton has largely received and held the support of prominent leaders within the Democratic Party, including President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, former Vice President Al Gore, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) of Massachusetts, she has struggled to gain as powerful a foothold among American voters.

On Monday, a CNN poll showed showed that 68 percent of Americans believe that Hillary Clinton is neither honest nor trustworthy –her worst rating yet on that measure. The same poll showed that Mr. Trump’s lead over Clinton as the most trusted candidate on both the national economy and on terrorism had grown to double digits, and Clinton had even fallen from 57 percent to 50 percent on foreign policy – one of her specialities – since the start of the Republican convention. 

Embroiled in political scandals and faux pas from the Benghazi consulate attack, to her private email server, to recent emails leaked from the Democratic National Committee that showed a bias against her primary opponent, Senator Sanders, Clinton has often fallen flat in her attempts to connect with potentially new fans, particularly voters disenchanted with current politics and energized by Sanders' rhetoric of "revolution."

"They have become a stew of simmering grievances from the primaries about rules, process, money, fairness and democracy," Michael Barbaro and Yamiche Alcindor wrote in a New York Times analysis, addressing the Vermont senator's speech at the convention and the fiery, tempestuous response from his supporters.

In an article for the Huffington Post, S.V. Date wrote, "so ingrained is the anti-Hillary sentiment, crossing party and demographic lines, that even those too young to remember anything about Whitewater or 'Troopergate' know it’s cool to dislike her – even though they may not be quite sure why."

In contrast, Republican Candidate Donald Trump's trumpeting, sound-byte filled speeches have garnered a once-shocking amount of support among GOP voters, but has yet to gain ground with prominent party members such as former Governor Mitt Romney and both of the former Bush presidents.

Many voters' deep qualms about Trump's style, rhetoric, and personal character make Clinton's personality and tone at the convention all the more important as a chance to reintroduce herself to American voters. 

"The right-wing media has tried to portray her as something she's not," said Chuck Schumer, a Democratic senator from New York who served with Clinton in the Senate, told The New York Times. "The convention is a great way to undo some of that media image. People will see her up close. They will see her the way she is. I think their minds are open."

The Clinton campaign has marshalled a wide array of speakers to help her make her case, from celebrity comedienne-turned-staunch Sanders supporter Sarah Silverman, who urged Democrats to unite behind Clinton, to Lena Dunham, the writer and creator of the television show "Girls," who has helped promote Clinton to young voters, particularly women. 

On Tuesday evening, the husband to the nominee, former President Bill Clinton, will speak. His last 2012 convention appearance in 2012 he spoke as the last Democratic president before Obama and electrified the audience. In 2016, however, he'll be speaking about his own wife, and likely highlighting the day's theme: "A Lifetime of Fighting for Children and Families." 

Clinton's team may feel that that emphasis on her public service record, social progress, and inclusivity is one of her best bets to highlight differences with her opponent.

"The contrast between Donald Trump's convention where he 'alone can fix it' versus Hillary Clinton's convention is that we are stronger together," a Clinton official told CNN.

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