PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Confronting a “moment of reckoning,” Hillary Clinton is casting herself as a unifier for divided times and a tested, steady hand to lead in a volatile world.
“We are clear-eyed about what our country is up against,” she said in excerpts released ahead of her speech Thursday accepting the Democratic presidential nomination. “But we are not afraid. We will rise to the challenge, just as we always have.”
Clinton’s national convention address follows three nights of Democratic stars, including a past and present president, asserting she is ready for the White House. Thursday night she was making that case for herself on the convention’s final night.
Acknowledging Americans’ anxieties, Clinton is vowing to create economic opportunities in inner cities and struggling small towns. She also says terror attacks around the world require “steady leadership” to defeat a determined enemy.
The first woman to lead a major U.S. political party toward the White House, Clinton will be greeted Thursday by a crowd of cheering delegates eager to see history made in the November election. But her real audience will be millions of voters who may welcome her experience but question her character.
For Clinton, the stakes are enormous.
She’s locked in a tight general election contest with Republican Donald Trump, an unconventional candidate and political novice. Even as Clinton and her validators argue Trump is unqualified for the Oval Office, they recognize the businessman has a visceral connection with some voters in a way the Democratic nominee does not.
Campaigning in Iowa Thursday, Trump said there were “a lot of lies being told” at Clinton’s convention. In an earlier statement, he accused Democrats of living in a “fantasy world,” ignoring economic and security troubles as well as Clinton’s controversial email use at the State Department.
The FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s use of a private internet server didn’t result in criminal charges, but it did appear to deepen voters’ concerns with her honesty and trustworthiness. A separate pre-convention controversy over hacked Democratic Party emails showing favoritism for Clinton in the primary threatens to deepen the perception that Clinton prefers to play by her own rules.
Former Oklahoma Sen. Fred Harris said it was important for his party’s nominee to showcase the “original Hillary Clinton, before she became so guarded” when she takes the convention stage.
A parade of speakers at the Philadelphia convention vigorously tried to do just that on Clinton’s behalf. First lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden each cast Clinton as champion for the disadvantaged and a fighter who has withstood decades of Republican attacks.
The Clintons’ daughter, Chelsea, will introduce her Thursday night, painting a personal picture of her mother.
The week’s most powerful validation came Wednesday night from President Barack Obama, her victorious primary rival in 2008. Obama declared Clinton not only can defeat Trump’s “deeply pessimistic vision” but also realize the “promise of this great nation.”
Seeking to offset possible weariness with a politician who has been in the spotlight for decades, he said of Clinton: “She’s been there for us, even if we haven’t always noticed.”
A studious wonk who prefers policy discussions to soaring oratory, Clinton has acknowledged she struggles with the flourishes that seem to come naturally to Obama and her husband. She’ll lean heavily on her “stronger together” campaign theme, invoking her 1996 book “It Takes a Village,” her campaign said.
Indeed, the Democratic convention has been a visual ode those mantras: The first African-American president symbolically seeking to hand the weightiest baton in the free world to a woman. A parade of speakers — gay and straight, young and old, white, black and Hispanic — cast Trump as out-of-touch with a diverse and fast-changing nation.
Clinton’s campaign was also reaching out to moderate Republicans who are unnerved by Trump. Former Reagan administration official Doug Elmets announced he was casting his first vote for a Democrat in November, and urged other Republicans who “believe loyalty to our country is more important than loyalty to party” to do the same, according to excerpts of his speech.
Retired Marine General John R. Allen, a former commander in Afghanistan, was one of several military leaders and service members who have taken the stage to vouch for Clinton’s national security experience. “With her as our commander in chief, America will continue to lead in this volatile world,” he said in speech excerpts.
To Democrats, Trump’s comments this week about Russia underscored their concerns about his handle on international issues.
Following reports Russia hacked Democratic Party emails, Trump said he’d like to see Moscow find the thousands of emails Clinton deleted from the account she used as secretary of state. The appearance of him encouraging Russia to meddle in the presidential campaign enraged Democrats and Republicans, even as he dismissed suggestions from Obama and other Democrats that Moscow already was intervening on his behalf.
Hours later, Trump told Fox News he was being “sarcastic” although shortly after his remarks on Wednesday, he tweeted that Russia should share the emails with the FBI.
Thursday night’s convention lineup will also showcase Democratic up-and-comers, including Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro; Katie McGinty, a Senate candidate from Pennsylvania, and Illinois Rep. Tammy Duckworth, also a candidate for the Senate.
Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran who lost her legs in combat, took on Trump’s readiness to be commander in chief, saying “I didn’t put my life on the line to defend our democracy so you could invite Russia to interfere with it.”
AP writers Kathleen Hennessey and Lisa Lerer contributed to this report.
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