Speculation ran wild about whether Hillary Clinton would give Barack Obama her full-throated support in her Democratic convention speech last night. Barack Obama himself reportedly previewed the speech and approved it, but even he must have wondered whether she’d stick to the script, or stick it to him. In the end, though, Hillary did the expected — she proved herself a party stalwart and threw her support behind Obama in a well-written, enthusiastic speech.
Republicans, of course, will not like the speech itself, as it’s filled with the policy proposals that turned the Democratic primaries into a populist panderfest. However, it fit into the themes of the evening — more on that in a minute — and it had explicit mentions of support for Obama in the beginning, middle, and end. Hillary did not stint on specific support:
I — I am so honored to be here tonight. No, I — I’m here tonight as a proud mother, as a proud Democrat — as a proud senator from New York — a proud American — and a proud supporter of Barack Obama.
My friends, it is time to take back the country we love. And whether you voted for me or you voted for Barack, the time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose. …
Barack Obama is my candidate, and he must be our president. …
And when Barack Obama is in the White House, he’ll revitalize our economy, defend the working people of America, and meet the global challenges of our time.
Democrats know how to do this. As I recall, we did it before, with President Clinton and the Democrats. And if we do our part, we’ll do it again with President Obama and the Democrats.
Hillary did not follow the Reagan 1976 template, where Reagan talked about the movement and the nation and not about Gerald Ford, nor the similar Kennedy 1980 template. She asked for unity and support for the party nominee, with perhaps minimal praise; she doesn’t say in the speech why Obama would make a good president, but just that Democrats need to unite in support of him.
Will it be effective? Time will tell, but I believe this speech will go at least a significant way towards convincing her supporters to remain in the tent. It may take a few days for that to become apparent, but I’d expect a slow drift of Hillary dead-enders to return to Barack Obama. This reaction from a Clinton delegate may not be unique:
In the end, this woman will not vote for John McCain. She might stay home, but that’s doubtful, given her level of political involvement. But this problem has never really been about delegates to the convention; rather, it’s been about the 18 million Hillary voters who found themselves angered by the results of the primary. I’d expect most of them to follow her lead, but figure about 15-20% who will either vote McCain or stay home in the end.