Winners and losers of the Dem convention

Winners and losers of the Dem convention

PHILADELPHIA — Democrats swung between triumph and disaster here in four days that saw outstanding speeches and emotional moments, but also some stark displays of disunity.


As the stage comes down at the Wells Fargo Center and the 101-day sprint to Election Day begins, who emerged as the winners and losers in the City of Brotherly Love?  


Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMcConnell: Taliban could take over Afghanistan by 'the end of the year' Hillary Clinton: There must be a 'global reckoning' with disinformation Pelosi's archbishop calls for Communion to be withheld from public figures supporting abortion rights MORE

Clinton’s closing-night speech was unspectacular but competent, and that was probably enough. 

The now-official Democratic presidential nominee benefited from plenty of other aspects of the convention: the growing solidarity within party ranks; the stellar speech by President Obama advocating for her; Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders on Cheney drama: GOP is an 'anti-democratic cult' Briahna Joy Gray: Biden campaign promises will struggle if Republicans win back Congress Biden backs COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers MORE’s expressions of support; and the all-out assault on Republican nominee Donald TrumpDonald TrumpVeteran accused in alleged border wall scheme faces new charges Arizona Republicans to brush off DOJ concern about election audit FEC drops investigation into Trump hush money payments MORE by many speakers.

The fact that she made history as the first female presidential nominee of a major party didn’t hurt, either. 

Democrats have been unnerved by a number of national polls showing Trump in the lead after his party's gathering last week. They leave Philadelphia hopeful that Clinton will receive a convention boost of her own.

President Obama

Obama’s exceptional oratorical skills have shone at every stage of his political career. And so it was here, during his last convention address as president. His speech was hailed as among the greatest he has ever delivered. 

The address had an expansive range encompassing an optimistic vision of the United States, a sometimes-wistful summation of his two terms in the White House, and excoriation of Trump.

It all came together to form an enormously powerful case for Clinton, who joined Obama onstage at the speech’s conclusion.

There was no shame for Clinton in the fact that her own speech on Thursday didn’t scale the same heights. When it comes to big speeches, Obama is a once-in-a-generation talent.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

The convention presented a tricky set of circumstances for the Vermont senator. 

It made official his loss to Clinton in the battle for the nomination, required him to endorse her unequivocally, and provided a platform for his most hard-line supporters to create as much disruption as possible.

Sanders handled it as well as anyone could have expected.

His speech on the convention’s opening night expressed thanks to his supporters and pride in their achievements, including a Democratic platform that Sanders considers the most progressive in the party’s history. And he expressed no ambivalence in his support for Clinton.

Sanders also sought to mollify some disappointed backers and face down the most dogmatic among them. 

On Monday, as tensions built between the Sanders and Clinton camps, the senator sent an email and a text message to his fans imploring them not to stage floor protests. 

The following day, he nominated Clinton to be the party’s standard-bearer and upbraided California delegates who were booing a speech. 

“It is easy to boo, but it is harder to look your kids in the face who would be living under a Donald Trump presidency,” he said.

First lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMichelle Obama spotted dining out in DC Obama goes on TikTok to urge young people to get vaccinated Obama to Black Americans: 'Keep marching, keep speaking up, keep voting' MORE

If her husband’s speech was more political, the first lady’ s Monday night address was one of the emotional high points of the convention. 

Michelle Obama has long been a powerful orator, but she is also a charismatic figure adored by the party’s grassroots supporters.

On Monday, her speech captivated delegates as she interwove her personal story with that of America’s racial history. 

“I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn,” she said, on the verge of tears.

“And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters — and all our sons and daughters — now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States.”

It was a speech sure to be remembered for years to come.

Vice President Biden

The vice president himself would probably acknowledge that he doesn’t have the rhetorical polish of his boss. But his plain-spoken style and capacity for empathy are powerful tools.

His Wednesday night address was received rapturously by the crowd as he blasted Trump in characteristic style. 

“He’s trying to tell us he cares about the middle class? Give me a break. That's a bunch of malarkey.”

Biden has been so often caricatured that his real political skills can be overlooked. He gave the audience here a strong reminder.

Sarah Silverman

One of the most striking sound bites of the whole convention came in an ad lib from Silverman, the stand-up comic and Sanders supporter.

Silverman was appearing with Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart Franken#MeWho? The hypocritical silence of Kamala Harris The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate Dems face unity test; Tanden nomination falls Gillibrand: Cuomo allegations 'completely unacceptable' MORE (D-Minn.) on Monday, the convention’s most rambunctious day. Having expressed her admiration for Sanders and her intention to vote for Clinton in November, Silverman broke off to say: “To the 'Bernie or bust' people, you’re being ridiculous.”

The remark received a huge cheer in the arena. There was no more succinct or devastating put-down of the Sanders die-hards all week.


The network went three-for-three in the ratings race on the convention’s first nights.

It was a big win for the network, giving it bragging rights in the intense competition for viewers at big moments. 

NBC News can claim a win, too: Its combined audience across its broadcast network and cable sibling MSNBC was significantly larger than CNN’s total. 

Fox News, which dominated the ratings at the Republican National Convention last week, fared much worse here, but still grew its audience compared with the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

All in all, it was a good convention for the news networks.


President Clinton

Few speeches divided opinion as evenly as the former president’s address on his wife’s behalf, delivered on Tuesday night. 

To fans, its personal touches humanized Hillary Clinton and gave an affectingly romantic portrayal of the couple’s relationship. Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonNever underestimate Joe Biden Joe Biden demonstrates public health approach will solve America's ills McAuliffe rising again in Virginia MORE also repeatedly emphasized his view that his wife was an effective “change-maker.”

To others, the speech’s focus on the Clinton marriage was of doubtful effectiveness, given that it inevitably reminded voters of his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Other skeptics felt that the address, which was almost devoid of big applause lines, was unusually flat for an orator of Bill Clinton’s skill. 

Either way, the former president was overshadowed by several other speakers during the convention’s four days — an unusual, and presumably unwelcome, situation for him. 

Vice presidential nominee Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOn The Money: Incomes, consumer spending soared in March | Harris, senators work behind scenes on jobs package | Biden cancels some border wall construction Harris, senators work behind scenes on jobs package Overnight Defense: Gillibrand makes new push for military sexual assault reform | US troops begin leaving Afghanistan | Biden budget delay pushes back annual defense policy bill MORE

Kaine suffered by being sandwiched between two of the best speeches of the convention, delivered by Vice President Biden and President Obama. He also had to deal with widespread protests from left-wing audience members who held up signs protesting the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Politically, Kaine could benefit from the sense of normalcy he exudes. Social media lit up with comparisons of him to an avuncular suburban father or uncle. Still, for whatever reason, his convention address didn’t quite take flight.

His address was not a bust. But it was workmanlike rather than outstanding.


Debbie Wasserman Schultz

For the outgoing Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairwoman, the convention was over before it began — and in the most awkward way possible. 

Leaked emails sent between DNC staffers that showed an apparent bias in favor of Clinton during the primary process made Wasserman Schultz's position untenable.

The Florida congresswoman, a lightning rod for criticism during her tenure, announced that she would step down immediately after the convention ended. For a while, there were suggestions that she would still gavel in proceedings. But the atmosphere was so intense and fractious that there were widespread fears she could be booed off the stage. 

In the end, she was virtually invisible during most of the convention. It was a grim end to her five years as head of the DNC.

The 'Bernie or bust' backers

The most uncompromising of Sanders’s supporters had at least as bad a convention as their nemesis, Wasserman Schultz. 

While most of the Vermont senator’s backers have come to accept their candidate’s loss to Clinton, some steadfastly refused.

They defied the email and text from Sanders on Monday imploring them not to boo or otherwise stage floor protests against Clinton’s nomination. On Monday, in particular, they booed lustily during speeches by well-respected party figures, including Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.).

The put-down by Silverman was emblematic of a broader view at the convention: that the hardest of the hard-liners had become an embarrassment to the party.

Senate candidate Katie McGinty

The Democratic Senate candidate in Pennsylvania hit the headlines when she called the Republican she is hoping to defeat, Sen. Pat Toomey, “an asshole, damn it,” at a union rally on the fringes of the convention on Monday. Amid immediate blowback, McGinty issued a statement saying she regretted the remark and apologizing to Toomey.

McGinty addressed convention delegates on Thursday and received a lackluster response.

Philadelphia, convention organizers, the on-site media

The consensus among the media and the political class before convention season kicked off was that the Democratic gathering here was likely to be more smoothly run than its Republican equivalent in Cleveland. 

That was based on the idea that security would be more oppressive in Cleveland around Donald Trump’s nomination as the GOP standard-bearer and that Philadelphia was a city better practiced at holding major events.

That proved entirely wrong. Cleveland was seamless while Philadelphia was dogged by poor organization of basic amenities, traffic problems and other logistical setbacks. 

Temperatures that climbed into the high 90s frayed tempers further in Philadelphia, but make no mistake: When it came to organization, Cleveland won a LeBron James-scale victory.