Democrats Day 1: And you thought the Republicans were a mess…

Lance Dutson: There is something really deeply wrong the Democratic Party. You guys had the presidency locked up, and many Republicans were even thinking Trump was a Democrat plot to hand the election to Hillary. But then your convention rolls around, and you managed the impossible—to create a bigger mess than Republicans did at their convention! Between the DNC email leaks and the full-scale freakout from Bernie supporters, I’m quite convinced you guys are actually going to let Trump become president. It’s truly shocking.

Steven Biel: You and I both know this was always going to be a close election, and the party definitely has some unity issues on display. But let’s not go overboard. The Trump show was four nights of amateur hour. The biggest problem at the Democratic Convention is figuring out how to fit in all the A-list speakers. We had Cory Booker, Al Franken, Sarah Silverman, Paul Simon, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders … and Michelle Obama, who gave one of the best convention speeches of all time. That’s all in one night! You guys had Scott Baio and a perpetually 60% empty arena.

Lance: What a game we’re playing with politics—I’ll take your profane B-list celebrity and raise you one more!

The GOP convention was a mess, but look at the perfect irony-barred cage Hillary is in now: She spends two years downplaying the threat email hackers, and on the eve of her nomination the DNC email is hacked by the Russians. Now her lame attempt at deflection is to blame Trump’s Putin ties for the hack of a political party, which only makes her malfeasance at the State Department seem even more risky. This whole thing reads like a cheesy Donald Trump-produced screenplay.

Steven: First of all, Sarah Silverman is A-list, and Scott Baio hasn’t even been on the B-list for 20 years.

But seriously, some of this is just the perennial challenge that the Democrats face as the one and only party that actually believes in government and thinks it should, you know, do things. Your party just sits back and says “no.” That’s a lot easier.

That said, there’s more to it than that, and I’m increasingly concerned that Clinton may not have the political skills to overcome them. In fact, I keep hearing Clinton partisans quote polls saying that 90% of Bernie voters are on board with Clinton, and I’m not even sure they know they have a problem. Polls that include Johnson and Stein show Clinton losing 30-35% of Bernie voters, and that doesn’t even account for turnout.

When a party starts only believing the data that tells them what they want to hear, they’re in trouble. Reminds me of the LePage reelection, when everyone was convinced that LePage had a hard ceiling at 40% that made Michaud a shoo-in.

Lance: That’s a really good point, and it seems to be a real issue for Democrats these days. The big difference that I see between the GOP and the Democratic Party is that we nominated the guy who gins up passion in voters. You guys conspired to cheat yours out of the nomination. I wish the rolls were reversed, to be honest, nevertheless it reflects a distinctly un-Democratic aspect to the party that is being revealed at the exact wrong time in history.

Steven: As a factual matter, Bernie wasn’t cheated out of anything. I caucused for Bernie and would have liked to see other candidates get in. But Clinton won fair and square, and it frankly wasn’t that close.

And I don’t think the divisions in the Democratic Party are nearly as severe as what the Republicans face. Yes, there are arguments on the floor. There’s a contingent of Bernie or Bust people who aren’t going to stop making noise, and that’s not a great look. But anti-Trump Republicans were too embarrassed or outraged to even show up, and some like George Will flat-out quit the party.

But we know Democratic voters don’t always turn out the way Republicans do. Add to that the inherent difficulty in holding the White House three elections in a row and Clinton’s weaknesses as a candidate, and Trump’s path to victory is not at all hard to see.

Lance: One of the most foreboding things for Hillary right now is that the center-stage story of her convention is hacked email. Not her running mate, not some amazing surrogate, but email hacking. Never mind that the hacking resulted in internecine chaos and the resignation of the party chair—look at the impact on this election’s narrative. Just as John Kerry’s ‘war hero’ message was blown to smithereens by the swift boaters at his convention in 2004, Hillary’s argument against her own criminality was absolutely nuked by this DNC hack. If people didn’t get the point that lax email security was a dangerous issue when dealing with national security secrets, they sure do now.

Steven: The Wikileaks are unhelpful for sure, and the “Putin did it to help Trump” narrative sounds implausibly conspiratorial. (Even though, for the record, it’s probably true, given Paul Manafort’s close ties to Putin and Trump’s strong advocacy for an almost unthinkable pro-Russian foreign policy realignment.)

Still, the first night was mostly successful, and there’s a lot of convention to go. Unlike Trump, we have adults running the show and top surrogates on tap including Bill Clinton and Joe Biden, the Veep’s night, and, oh yeah, the sitting president—the only national politician in America with an approval rating above water. That’s a lot of firepower, and if Hillary caps it off with a strong acceptance speech, she can put these distractions in the rear-view mirror and reestablish a solid 3-5 point lead that she can carry to November.

Left Brain Right Brain

About Left Brain Right Brain

Lance Dutson, a principal of Red Hill Strategies, is a Republican communications consultant. He has served on the campaign teams of U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Kelly Ayotte, as well as the Maine Republican Party. Steven Biel is a former campaign director for and president of the Portland-based political consulting firm Steven Biel Strategies, which provides digital campaign support to organizations including NARAL Pro-Choice America, Courage Campaign, and Environment America.