THE MORNING PLUM:
The first night of the Democratic convention, which started out amid discord but ended up featuring outstanding speeches from some of the most outsize figures in the party, continues to be analyzed through the prism of this question: Will Democrats unite at a time when supporters of Bernie Sanders continue to express fury at the process in general and at Hillary Clinton in particular?
That’s a fine question, and its answer remains to be seen, though the significance of the Bernie-or-Bust sentiment is being widely exaggerated this morning by major news organizations. But there’s a bigger picture point to be made here. What last night really showed is that there will be a profound, fundamental imbalance between the Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump campaigns when it comes to the wattage of surrogates out there making the case this fall.
The biggest speeches of the night, from New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders, projected a tone that seemed designed to contrast sharply with the hate-and-rage-fest otherwise known as the GOP convention. All of them, in one way or another, sought to align the Democratic Party, optimistically and aspirationally, with culturally and demographically changing America. They explicitly called out Trumpism — the rendition of it featured at the GOP convention — as brimming over with reactionary hostility towards the evolving and diversifying America of the 21st century.
All of this is driven in part by the fact that the voter groups out of which Democrats hope to assemble a winning national coalition — college educated whites, nonwhites, women, young voters — appear to reject the xenophobia and ethno-nationalism at the core of Trumpism’s appeal. But there’s a key nuance here. There is a direct link between Trump’s alienation of key demographics and the lack of high profile surrogates that will be there for him this fall. Senior Republicans are keeping Trump at arm’s length in part precisely because he’s putting off those voter groups, which many top Republicans know the party must improve among for the sake of its future.
This is a dynamic that both Republican and Democratic strategists are taking note of this morning.
“Hillary will have Bernie Sanders, the Obamas, Elizabeth Warren, who has been elevated to star status by Donald Trump, and Joe Biden,” Stuart Stevens, the chief strategist for Mitt Romney in 2012, tells me. “Who will be campaigning with Donald Trump that has a large constituency?” Stevens adds that many Republicans who do have large constituencies — such as Mitt Romney, George W. Bush, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio — will likely be M.I.A. once the campaign kicks into high gear.
Stevens also noted a connection between the disparity in high wattage surrogates and Trump’s alienation of key demographics. “The essence of politics is about addition, not subtraction,” Stevens said. “Donald Trump finds it very hard for any given moment not to be about Donald Trump, which makes coalition building and the blocking and tackling of politics more difficult. If you’re in a fight with the Republican governor of Ohio and the Hispanic governor of New Mexico, how can you expect to build a broader coalition?”
“Trump’s fight with Susana Martinez is a perfect illustrator,” Stevens concluded, referring to the governor of New Mexico. “He desperately needs women and Hispanics.”
Or, as Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg argued in an email, Day One of the Democratic convention revealed a core contrast with the GOP: “The Democratic Party has become a mature and successful governing Party, with a talented and experienced set of diverse leaders to guide it and a changing country confidently into the future.”
Obviously there is no telling whether all of this will matter enough to prevent a Trump win, which of course remains very possible. Clinton still has serious weaknesses, and it remains to be seen how, or whether, the rest of the convention will successfully address them. But the point is, Day One revealed that Clinton has a very clear structural advantage that very well may assert itself this fall, when voters are really paying attention. And this is also another way in which there is simply no equivalence between the degree of disunity that is afflicting the two parties.
* KAINE PICK GETS THUMBS UP: A new CNN poll finds that 52 percent of Americans think Tim Kaine is qualified to be president, while 56 percent say the pick reflects favorably on her decision-making ability. A plurality, 46 percent, thinks the choice was excellent (13) or pretty good (33).
Notable: Despite some criticism on the left, 61 percent of liberals say Kaine is qualified; 74 percent of them say it reflects well on her decision-making; and 62 percent of them say the choice was excellent (22) or good (40). And another narrative goes kaputsky.
* TRUMP GOT ZERO BOUNCE, POLL FINDS: The new NBC News/Survey Monkey Tracking Poll finds that Trump got no bounce from his convention: Clinton leads him by 46-45 among national adults, unchanged since last week.
In fairness, this poll was taken throughout last week, not entirely after Trump’s speech. And the polling averages do show a bounce. But the averages also show Clinton still leading by between one and two points, and they show Trump still down at around 41 percent.
* INDEPENDENTS SOUR ON TRUMP’S SPEECH: An interesting finding from the new NBC/Survey Monkey poll:
Trump’s convention speech, which was received well by Republicans watching the event, did not sit as well with Independents. Just 30 percent of Independents who watched the speech said it was excellent or good, 29 percent said it was “just okay” and a 40 percent plurality said it was poor or terrible.
But Republicans loved it, so it’s all good.
* HOW TO READ THE POLLS: The Upshot’s model gives Clinton a 69 percent chance, but 538 puts it at 54 percent. Josh Katz explains why: The Upshot evaluates polls over a longer period, to avoid distortions created by unreliable polling during the conventions. Note:
Polling now is the least informative it has been for a few months. Polling two to three weeks from now, once the convention bounces have stabilized, should be far more predictive. The model will be in wait-and-see mode for a few weeks, but history suggests uncertainty will decrease rapidly once the convention period ends and parties begin to coalesce (or not) around their respective candidates.
As we keep telling you, we’ll know a lot more next month.
* ‘BERNIE OR BUST’ IS NOT ABOUT BERNIE ANYMORE: The New York Times observes this about Bernie’s supporters:
In a way, the angry remnants of Mr. Sanders’s presidential campaign are not really about him anymore: They have become a stew of simmering grievances from the primaries….Statistically, those who are prepared to embrace Mrs. Clinton are, by far, the largest group of Mr. Sanders’s supporters, pollsters have repeatedly found. But here at the convention, they are fighting to be heard over their angrier and louder peers, who are unwilling to fall in line.
Also, it’s hard to know whether the Bernie-or-Busters are even Democrats or would be likely to vote in any case.
* A DEAD HEAT…IN GEORGIA? A new WSB-TV poll, taken after the GOP convention, finds that Trump and Clinton are locked in a dead heat in Georgia, at 45-44. This type of finding is hard to square with the national polls showing Trump enjoying a huge bounce.
So keep an eye out for more state polls to add to what the national polls are telling us about where the race is headed.
* AND MORE BERNIE-OR-BUST PROTESTS PLANNED: The Associated Press reports that more protests are planned for today. As one Bernie-or-Buster put it:
Deborah Armstrong, of Spokane, Washington, said she and her husband went bankrupt because of his health problems, which required a heart transplant. “I’m Bernie or bust,” she said. “I’m not going to have Trump held up to our head like a gun.”
Trump would repeal Obamacare and cost as many as 20 million people their insurance, so a Trump victory actually is pointing a metaphorical gun at the heads of a lot of people.