35 reasons Dems ran a better convention, despite their liberalism
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State of the 2016 Race
A column for The Hill analyzing the current state of the 2016 presidential race.

The Democrats and the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonElise Stefanik seeks to tackle GOP’s women ‘crisis’ ahead of 2020 Russian pop star linked to Trump Tower meeting cancels US tour Graham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies MORE campaign are simply better now at running conventions and campaigns for president.

1. Back in the 1980s, the GOP — especially President Reagan's team — were the best at running national campaigns.

2. Of course, in those days — because California was a reliable, guaranteed GOP source of electoral votes — winning the presidency was indeed easier for the Republicans.

3. And the Reagan-GOP Team learned over many years how to run a major-league national campaign.

4. They projected the sunny, and at times tough, image of Reagan, who permeated the entire GOP for two decades.

5. Remember, he had been around a long time — he had a short, failed 1968 run followed by an almost-successful 1976 race — and his team grew and matured politically just as the country was moving to the right politically.

6. There used to be talk that the Republican Party has a lock on the presidency for a generation to come.

7. Well, then came the 1990s. California's anti-illegal immigrant campaign ended up blowing up the GOP there and flipped it to the Democrats, and that "lock" was gone and the Clintons came along.

8. Like the Reagan team, the Clinton team has won ('92, '96) — and lost (2008 Democratic primary) — and in the process has learned a lot.

9. This year, they were again up against a more liberal primary opponent in Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) Sanders2020 Dems seize on MLK Day for campaign messaging Sanders knocks Trump in MLK Day speech Grassley to test GOP on lowering drug prices MORE (Vt.) — somewhat reminiscent of Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama puts out call for service on MLK Day: ‘Make a positive impact on the world’ Trump, Pence visit MLK Memorial Trump offers to limit his border wall to strategic locations MORE in 2008 — and using the lessons learned eight years ago, they fended off The Bern.

10. Along the way, they also swallowed their pride and incorporated many of the members of Team Obama into their operation to make a world-class campaign structure.

11. They are now so competent that they stole the Reagan playbook and ran a GOP-style convention in Philadelphia: American flags, tributes to fallen soldiers and police officers, repeated claims that "we live in the greatest country in the world!"

12. They planned to project an optimism — even in times of distress — coupled with military figures pledging to win the War on Terror.

13. So here was what the American public saw in Philadelphia: Optimism. "America is the greatest." Win a war. Celebrate cops. Unite us all in an effort to fix our country. Quoting Presidents Reagan and Teddy Roosevelt.

14. In other words: A Republican Convention!

15. Why did they carefully do this? Because their overall game plan is to swath nominee Hillary Clinton in good feeling and optimism so that they (slightly) raise her positives and (maybe) lower her negatives.

16. All before the fall onslaught of total nuclear negativity against GOP nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump claims media 'smeared' students involved in encounter with Native American man Al Sharpton criticizes Trump’s ‘secret’ visit to MLK monument Gillibrand cites spirituality in 2020 fight against Trump’s ‘dark’ values MORE.

17. It is an accepted rule in politics that in order to "go negative" successfully, you need to be operating from a base of positivity about your own persona.

18. You take on heavy negatives of your own when you go negative against your opponent.

19. So, in effect, you try to "bank" as many positives about you before you go negative, because your own negatives will inevitably go up when you go negative.

20. The problem for Hillary Clinton is that she, too, has astronomical negatives.

21. So, the Democratic convention was aimed at raising her positives, at least among Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents.

22. Which gets us to President Obama's slightly disingenuous comment: "You need to drag Hillary across the finish line the same way you dragged me across the finish line eight years ago."

23. It is doubtful he believes anyone "dragged [him] across the finish line." He certainly believes he dragged the Democratic Party across the finish line.

24. But the Democrats know that they will have to indeed do the heavy lifting in order to get Clinton to 270 electoral votes.

25. But, no matter. The truth is that Clinton is a desultory candidate. A poor speaker. Basically unlikeable. She does work hard and knows the issues inside and out. But she wears badly.

26. The more the voters see her, the less they like her.

27. Then, when she is out of the news for an extended period of time, her ratings go up.

28. But she offsets her bad candidate skills with that first-class campaign apparatus.

29. And an opponent bent on self-immolation every few days.

30. For those who believe Clinton is too liberal to win and that her acceptance speech tacked hard left and that will turn away wavering Republicans who can’t take Trump: 2016 is not an ideological campaign.

31. Trump is actually to the left of Clinton on many issues: trade, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Iraq War.

32. And Trump does not go after Clinton on her liberalism. In fact, can you recall Trump ever going after anyone for their political ideology?

33. He does not see politics along the normal spectrum; thus he allows Clinton to vacuum up the Sanders voters by cribbing many of Bernie's lines about free college, universal healthcare and other massive government programs all paid for by Wall Street and the 1 percent.

34. So here we are: The conventions are over. The race is basically tied between two weak, unattractive, negative candidates. Yes, it is indeed an unconventional year. But maybe — just maybe — it will be the conventional blocking and tackling and fundamental campaign tasks — identifying and getting out your voters — that will in the end determine the next president of the United States.

35. If that is so, then Donald Trump, the richest candidate to ever run for any office in our nation's history, will rue the day he trashed campaign professionals and closed his checkbook.

LeBoutillier is a former Republican congressman from New York and is the co-host of "Political Insiders" on Fox News Channel, Sunday nights at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. He writes semi-regular pieces in the Contributors section on the "State of the 2016 Race."


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.