Nominee Clinton seeks to unify Dems as she pivots to general election

PHILADELPHIA — Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accepted the Democratic nomination for president on Thursday night and sought to ease a restive electorate by casting herself as a steady hand for the economy and a leader already experienced on the world stage.

Drawing a contrast with the narrative of a nation in peril intoned by Republican nominee Donald Trump at the GOP convention last week, Clinton embraced an optimistic view of the future as she pitched an agenda to confront global terrorism, economic inequality and disparities in the criminal justice system.


"We are clear-eyed about what our country is up against. But we are not afraid. We will rise to the challenge, just as we always have," Clinton said. "We will not build a wall. Instead we will build an economy where everyone who wants to get a job will get one."

The first woman nominated for president by a major political party, Clinton faced a daunting challenge as she stepped onto the stage in the Wells Fargo Center: The four-day convention has highlighted a rift between establishment figures and voters who supported Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. An important goal of her address was to bridge that divide.


Clinton will try to bring Sanders voters on board in coming months, even as she pivots to a general election strategy that will require her to appeal to the independents and centrists in both parties who will ultimately decide the election.

Much of Thursday night's program — including a heavy focus on national security, and applause lines for former President Ronald Reagan — appeared designed to reach Republicans.

The Democratic nominee also hopes to overcome challenges that hampered her campaign in 2008. Polling indicates that a majority of Americans have questions about her trustworthiness, a problem exacerbated by a months-long FBI probe into a private email server that ultimately did not end in charges.

"I get it that some people just don't know what to make of me," Clinton said. "The family I'm from — well, no one had their name on big buildings."

As she looked ahead to the fall, Clinton tried to assure voters here and at home that she would continue to support for the policies that have been central to Barack Obama's presidency — more carefully targeted immigration enforcement, tougher gun control, a focus on climate change and support of the 2010 health care law.

She hinted at her opposition to another Obama policy, the controversial Pacific Rim trade agreement that he negotiated and she once supported, but has repudiated under pressure from Sanders and his supporters.

"My primary mission as president will be to create more opportunity and more good jobs with rising wages right here in the United States — from my first day in office to my last … from our inner cities to our small towns, Indian country to coal country," Clinton said, though she offered few specifics for how she would accomplish that.

Clinton and Sanders delegates say the prospect of a Trump presidency would unify the party and attract new, unaffiliated voters in the November election. But it is not clear that has happened. Polling shows Clinton and Trump running close in the battlefield states of Ohio and Florida. She enjoys a small lead in Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina and some others.

"There's no question that we're united," said Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland. "Our challenge is how do we take that to the independent voters and the Republicans who recognize that Donald Trump doesn't represent the best values of their party?"

The Democratic National Convention got off to a rocky start this week after internal party emails published by WikiLeaks indicated that ostensibly neutral party operatives were working quietly to undermine Sanders in the final weeks of the primary campaign. The disclosure fed into the notion, pushed by Sanders, that establishment Democrats tried to ease Clinton's path to the nomination.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz stepped down from her post on the eve of the convention.

The email leak came on top of significant policy differences Sanders supporters had — and still have — with Clinton. Party liberals wanted her to embrace tougher regulations on Wall Street, support a national $15 minimum wage and convince them of her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.


Yet despite the jeering and protests in Philadelphia, there were signs that the highly scripted convention was having some impact. Many Sanders supporters said they are ready to vote for Clinton, though some said they are not prepared to work actively for her campaign.

"There may be a few people who are still mulling — who are disenchanted with Hillary," said state Del. Jimmy Tarlau of Prince George's County, a Sanders delegate who said he backs Clinton. "… But I think the overwhelming number of Democrats will vote."

While the floor in Philadelphia was at times rowdy — as when hundreds of Sanders delegates stormed off the floor in protest Tuesday — it is worth noting that virtually the entire universe of the Democratic Party attended, including Sanders supporters. That was not the case at the GOP convention, where many anti-Trump Republicans — including Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan — stayed home.

The Democratic convention featured three presidents — Obama and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, who addressed the hall in a video — as well as most of the party's notable figures.

"I'm glad this convention went the way it went," said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Baltimore, a Clinton delegate whose speech here Monday was interrupted by Sanders supporters. "Every day it got better and better, and now we walk out of here with a better appreciation of who we are and a better understanding of how bad Trump would be for this country."

Despite threats of massive and disruptive protests, Philadelphia police reported only about a dozen arrests over four days. The Republican convention in Cleveland last week was similarly calm.

Trump suggested Thursday that Clinton is out of touch with the struggles faced by millions of Americans. He again raised the crime rate in Baltimore as an example. Trump delivered a convention speech last week that was focused on law and order, and he has returned to that theme repeatedly since then.

"At Hillary Clinton's convention this week, Democrats have been speaking about a world that doesn't exist," Trump said in statement. "A world where America has full employment, where there's no such thing as radical Islamic terrorism, where the border is totally secured, and where thousands of innocent Americans have not suffered from rising crime in cities like Baltimore and Chicago."

Trump has repeatedly noted a roughly 60 percent increase in homicides in Baltimore, which is an accurate comparison of 2014 to 2015. This year, homicides in the city are down slightly, but not enough to offset the spike last year.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and other Democrats in Maryland dismissed Trump's comments.


Several Clinton supporters put aside thoughts of Trump for the evening to take in the historic significance of her nomination — and the years-long journey she had taken to get the stage in Philadelphia.


"Breaking this barrier, Hillary Clinton is showing us that it's not just men who get to reach their personal potential," said Clinton delegate Martha McKenna, the board chairwoman of Emerge Maryland, a group that trains Democratic women to run for office. "Every one of us can."


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