PHILADELPHIA – President Obama invoked his “Yes we can” 2008 campaign slogan Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention, leaving little doubt that his declaration that Hillary Clinton was “fit” and “ready” to be commander-in-chief was a baton-passing of his eight years in office — a legacy that Republican nominee Donald Trump immediately attacked as “Owning the 3rd Term.”
Capping another night of Trump bashing — briefly interrupted by the official nomination of Tim Kaine to be Clinton’s vice presidential running mate — Obama declared, “There has never been a man or a woman – not me, not Bill, nobody – more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America,” at the same time accusing Trump of peddling "fear" and a pessimistic vision of the country.
Republicans immediately fired back, with party Chairman Reince Priebus issuing a statement saying, “Tonight reinforced that the Hillary Clinton, Tim Kaine ticket is nothing more than two career DC insiders who want nothing more than to continue the failed Democrat status quo.”
He pointed to what he called the president’s “failed legacy in the Middle East” and said, “Our country cannot afford four more years like the last eight, which have left us less prosperous, less safe, and less free.”
Without question, the sitting president depends on his former secretary of state to help preserve his legacy, and fend off recurring Republican attempts to repeal ObamaCare, upend environmental regulations and more. But Republicans point to the other side of the picture – a debt nearing $20 trillion, tensions growing in America’s cities and an Islamic State threat that even top security officials suggest is growing in its reach and unpredictability.
“Our country does not feel 'great already' to the millions of wonderful people living in poverty, violence and despair,” Trump tweeted Wednesday night.
Obama, though, tried to frame the election as a choice between pessimism and optimism, as he set the stage for Clinton to accept the nomination Thursday night.
“America is already great. America is already strong,” Obama said. “And I promise you, our strength, our greatness, does not depend on Donald Trump.”
Clinton surprised the crowd by showing up onstage with Obama at the end of his speech, the two of them hugging and waving to delegates who were holding up "thank you" signs.
Obama’s address was delivered shortly after delegates finalized the party’s 2016 ticket. In an overwhelming voice vote, they nominated Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine for vice president.
Kaine himself, after starting off talking family and faith, shifted gears in the second half and shelved his nice-guy persona to deliver a broadside against Trump, as he accepted the VP nomination from his party.
“Hillary has a passion for kids and families. … Donald Trump has a passion too: It's himself,” Kaine said. The senator was merciless after that. He went on to mock Trump, imitating his Queens accent when he says, “Believe me.”
“We're gonna destroy ISIS so fast -- believe me! There's nothing suspicious in my tax returns -- believe me!” Kaine bellowed, as the crowd roared with laughter. “Here's the thing. Most people, when they run for president, they don't just say ‘believe me.’ They respect you enough to tell you how they will get things done. … You cannot believe one word that comes out of Donald Trump's mouth.”
While he was speaking, the Trump campaign was firing out press releases ripping Kaine as a “job killer” and part of the Washington establishment.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had considered an independent presidential run before ruling it out, made a late appearance Wednesday – with an endorsement that could help Clinton reach out to vital independents whom Trump also is courting, and a bagful of zingers aimed squarely at his fellow billionaire.
“Trump says he wants to run the nation like he’s run his business. God help us!” Bloomberg said, calling him a “dangerous demagogue” and claiming it’s “imperative” to elect Clinton.
The focus of the third convention night was heavy on gun control, global warming and even national security, an issue largely absent from the first two nights.
Together, the speakers Wednesday set the stage for Clinton to deliver her nomination acceptance speech and close out the convention Thursday night, after becoming Tuesday the first woman in U.S. history nominated for president by a major party.