So it’s the last night of the convention and the media is now setting up a simple narrative: Can Hillary deliver? CNN’s lead story right now is titled “Hillary Clinton’s challenge: Igniting excitement.” Here’s a sample:
Hillary Clinton’s allies did everything in their power to set up her big moment Thursday night.
Now it’s up to her to deliver.
As she takes center stage, Clinton faces a critical task: persuading Americans that she understands their frustration and economic anxiety at a time when many of them still do not trust her.
Over at Vox, Matt Yglesias is lowering expectations with a piece titled, “Hillary Clinton is bad at speeches for the exact reasons she’d be a good president.” Here’s a sample:
Hillary Clinton has one job tonight: Deliver a kick-ass speech.
Unfortunately, it’s just not a job that suits her talents…her speeches themselves often aren’t very good. They’re over-stuffed with ideas that don’t necessarily relate, and flattened out like a computer merge of a dozen different people’s speeches rather than reflecting a distinctive voice or viewpoint.
That follows from the way she works. It’s a process that’s really bad at delivering memorable oratory, but actually makes a lot of sense as a model for running the executive branch.
If you keep reading, Yglesias argues that Clinton is too darn collaborative to be inspiring as an individual. This sounds like the kind of self-serving answer you give during a job interview when the interviewer asks you to list your personal failings. Best answers: I’m a workaholic. I care too much about success.
Here’s the reality. Americans don’t trust Clinton. Many Americans think she isn’t particularly honest (and with good reason). That means she’s not in a very good position to testify on her own behalf.
When your own testimony is suspect, what you need is friends who can make the case for you. That’s what Hillary has gotten all week, testimonials from both Obamas, Joe Biden, her husband, etc. But that won’t work tonight.
What she can get tonight is the media’s approval. So the media’s pre-speech narrative (Can she do it??!) is a perfect set up for the least surprising conclusion they will make all week. Clinton will get up and read the speech from the prompter. The crowd will cheer her attacks and laugh at her jokes. The balloons will drop. And the news media will proclaim, while it wasn’t the greatest speech of the convention, Hillary got the job done.
What would it actually take for CNN or Vox (or other outlets) to conclude the speech was a failure? Unless she unexpectedly falls off the stage tonight, it’s pretty hard to imagine it happening.
On the other hand, we’ve seen her blow it before. There was the terrible fake accent, the ad lib about her Republican enemies, the “joke” about wiping her server with a cloth. Clinton is such a poor candidate that there really is an outside chance she could mess up what should be a safe bet.