PHILADELPHIA — Democrat Hillary Clinton will make her case for the White House on Thursday night, taking the stage at her nominating convention to try to dispel doubts about her character and repair her battered image.
In the biggest speech of her more than 25-year-old career in public service, Clinton will sound the themes that will propel her campaign against Republican Donald Trump in the Nov. 8 election.
It will be Clinton’s turn in the spotlight after days of electrifying speeches by party heavyweights such as President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and first lady Michelle Obama praising Clinton and cautioning that Trump would be dangerous and divisive.
“Tonight in her speech, Hillary is going to stitch together each of these themes and talk about how this election is really a moment of reckoning for the voters,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told reporters.
“Are we going to succumb to some very powerful forces that are tearing at our social fabric, that are dividing us, economically and socially, or are we going to come together to solve these problems?” he said.
It will be a difficult and high-stakes task for the guarded Clinton, 68, known to be a more effective politician in small gatherings than on big stages.
Clinton, vying to be the first woman elected president in U.S. history, needs to make a convincing argument she can bring about change while representing the legacy of Obama, who is nearing the end of his second four-year term with high approval ratings.
She must make inroads with voters who find her untrustworthy or unlikable, as her favorability ratings in polls have hit all-time lows.
In his speech, Obama offered an optimistic view of the United States that he contrasted with Trump’s vision of a country in crisis.
Clinton was likely to offer a similarly upbeat message. She aimed to draw on an idea that has driven her throughout her career, that all Americans should be given the chance to fulfill their potential, a campaign aide said.
Trump, a 70-year-old New York businessman who has never held political office, is running just ahead of Clinton in a RealClearPolitics average of recent national opinion polls. They both garner high “unpopularity” ratings.
The Republican nominee has hammered Clinton as untrustworthy, and Republicans depict her as a Washington insider who would continue what they see as the failed policies of Obama’s presidency.
Trump rejected the optimism voiced at the Democratic convention, saying Democrats were talking about “a world that doesn’t exist” and papering over Clinton’s problems and mistakes.
“I propose a different vision for America, one where we can break up Washington’s rigged system, and empower all Americans to achieve their dreams. In our vision, we will put America First,” he said in a statement.
Chelsea Clinton, who spent eight years of her childhood in the White House when Bill Clinton was president, will introduce her mother on Thursday evening.
Rosa Patlan Harris, 70, a retired postal worker and delegate from Texas, said she thinks Clinton can measure up to the high expectations for her speech.
“I think she can handle it,” said Patlan Harris, a long-time supporter of the former secretary of state. “You know she’s tough.”
MILESTONE FOR WOMEN
The Democratic gathering began on a note of discord on Monday, with backers of Bernie Sanders, the U.S. senator from Vermont who lost the nomination to Clinton, noisily booing the very mention of her name.
But protests inside the arena calmed after the tumultuous first day. After two nights of speeches meant to unify the party and show a more personal and warmer side of Clinton, the third night featured a sharp turn to attacking Trump.
Taking aim at Trump’s campaign promise to “Make America Great Again,” Obama said: “America is already great. America is already strong. And I promise you, our strength, our greatness, does not depend on Donald Trump.”
Trump, a former reality TV star, has portrayed the country as being under siege from illegal immigrants, crime and terrorism and as losing influence in the world. He has proposed a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country and a wall along the border with Mexico to keep illegal immigrants out.
Biden called Trump an opportunist with no clue about how to make America great. Vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine, a U.S. senator from Virginia, said Trump was a “a one-man wrecking crew” who could not be trusted in the Oval Office.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-independent media mogul, attacked Trump’s history of bankruptcies and lawsuits and called his presidential bid a “con.”
Joyce Lalonde, a retired elementary school teacher and delegate from Michigan at the Democratic convention, was eagerly anticipating Clinton’s address as a milestone for women.
Lalonde, 68, recalled how she and her fellow female teachers once protested her school district’s requirement that women wear dresses or skirts and how times had changed for women.
“It was a man’s world!” Lalonde said. “Men didn’t have to go through what women had to.