Media Buzz

Hillary stresses unity against Trump, says she's the woman for the job

Dem strategists Joe Trippi and Jessica Ehrlich give 'On the Record' insight on how Hillary Clinton can earn skeptical voters' trusts, despite years of scandal and political baggage


Hillary Clinton, performing more in prose than poetry, finally found a theme against Donald Trump.

He's about himself; she's about us.

Seizing on a much-mocked line that Trump used last week in Cleveland, Clinton said in her acceptance speech here: "Americans don't say I alone can fix it — they say we'll fix it together."

She kept returning to that rhetorical device. Trump was forgetting the cops and soldiers with his focus on himself. The Clinton campaign's "stronger together" slogan signaled that she is the stark alternative to the divisive Donald.

And she embraced her inner wonk, saying "I sweat the details on policy" — because details matter if it's, say, lead in your water in Flint. And her speech eventually became a liberal laundry list, from a job investment program to free college tuition.

The crowd here loved it, drowning out the remaining Bernie Sanders diehards. But did this Clinton, whose brand has been battered, who lived in the White House in the 1990s, convince wavering voters that she deserves her name on a new lease?

Clinton uttered the key word — compromising — in recounting the American fight for independence. Where she cast Donald Trump as a wrong-headed strongman —"He wants to divide us from the rest of the world and from each other" — Clinton quoted FDR on not fearing fear.

The problem is that she is running on compromise in a year of unparalleled fear, and is nearly as polarizing and unpopular as her Republican opponent

Hillary's challenge, of course, is that she's not a great orator. She gives workmanlike speeches, in stark contrast to the president she married and the one she wants to succeed.

She needed to be forceful but likable, forge a connection with the audience, and start repairing the trust deficit that has dogged her throughout this campaign.

But most of all, there was this: Could she plausibly present herself as a change-maker when, in a contest against Trump, she seems to embody the status quo — or, at the very least, incremental change?

When Hillary hugged Barack Obama after he praised her to the skies, they became joined at the hip. How aggressively can she promise change when she also has to defend the last eight years — half of them as the nation's top diplomat?

Clinton talked about the fraying bonds of trust. She talked about creating more good jobs with rising wages. And she tackled the topic of terrorism, which has been oddly muted at this convention:

"From Baghdad and Kabul, to Nice and Paris and Brussels, to San Bernardino and Orlando, we're dealing with determined enemies that must be defeated. No wonder people are anxious and looking for reassurance — looking for steady leadership."

There was a moment when she seemed all too real, saying "some people just don't know what to make of me." Meaning that they don't like her. But then she pivoted to describing her upbringing.

She is, of course, also running as a woman, and the biggest roar in Wells Fargo Center came when she noted her groundbreaking gender moment.

Was it a ladylike thing to do to spent the first part of her speech thanking men — Bill, Barack, Bernie — or just good politics?

The eternal debate over Hillary — perhaps a touch more pronounced because she is a woman — is whether to stress charm or competence. Should she be the loyal sister who fights to get you child care, or should she be Margaret Thatcher — or even Theresa May?

Clinton said she understood the anger out there, which Trump of course has tapped into, and that no one should be satisfied with the status quo. The question after Philadelphia is whether she persuaded wavering voters that she is the woman for the job.

Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.