For Hillary Clinton, her Thursday night address is quite likely the most important of her life thus far. There is a very long list of things Clinton needs to accomplish with this speech.
The Fix rounded up six of the big ones.
1. Assure the country she's trustworthy.
Right now, there are a lot of people — a lot — who do not view Clinton as honest. A CNN-ORC poll conducted July 22-24 found that 68 percent of registered voters think the words "honest" and "trustworthy" do not apply to Clinton. Ouch.
And if that didn't sting, this probably did. There were more registered voters who described Trump as honest and trustworthy than those who said the same about Clinton. That pretty much makes the challenge here clear.
2. Convince America she feels their pain.
This is another one of those tasks so essential that it's unlikely the election can be won if it's not achieved. Just to put that in hard terms, in that same July CNN-ORC poll mentioned above, 54 percent of registered voters told researchers they don't see Clinton as a person in touch with the problems "ordinary Americans face in their daily lives."
So far, two mothers widowed by war, a litany of women in public office, Vice President Biden and several others have all made speeches at the convention trying to counteract that sentiment. Clinton faces a real challenge here.
As many of Clinton's critics are fond of pointing out, she's had Secret Service protection for more than two decades. So on a personal level she doesn't face the same fear of crime (no matter how unfounded) other people do. She can collect more than most people are paid in a year for delivering a single speech. So the financial worries that unite so many Americans right now also aren't on Clinton's personal plate. And she happens to share a last name with a certain former president who excelled at emoting and demonstrating empathy.
It's true that Clinton's competition has some challenges of his own in this area. Trump hasn't been able to stop himself from bragging on the campaign trail about his creative use of bankruptcy laws and his skill in the fine art of leveraging debt. But what Trump does have is a skill he began perfecting in the 1970s. That's the ability to sound a lot like working-class guys who live paycheck to paycheck and worry about financial matters big and small. If there is one thing Trump has consistently done at a level that few can, it's sounding like he is personally as sick and tired as people far less wealthy than himself.
3. Make a case to the country that her experience amounts to valuable know-how.
Trump mowed through his Republican competition — including several governors, senators and one who is the son and brother of former presidents with a massive campaign war chest — in ways that will one day fill many a book. Among his tactics: sometimes overt, sometimes subtle suggestions that his competition's experience was a problem.
When you look at it this way, Clinton has got to make a strong case tonight that 16 men and one woman could not. But Clinton has been a public figure for so long that when she attempted to try on an outsider identity during the primaries, it often resulted in jeers.
4. Make the Obama coalition the Clinton 2016 crew, without alienating white men.
Both of the major-party candidates have shown they can cobble together a voter coalition big enough to clear the primary process. Done. But unlike Trump, Clinton's existing coalition — eligible voters of color, college-educated and left-leaning white voters — when combined with some newly registered voters is just big enough to deliver the White House.
Yes, we are aware of the polls showing Trump is enjoying a post-convention bounce that right now puts him ahead of Clinton. But take a moment and absorb these facts.
White voters have been participating in presidential elections in declining numbers since the 1990s. The 1990s. Got that? At the same time, black voters, and in a less consistent way Latino and Asian voters, have done just the opposite. And, the nation's Latino and Asian populations are growing rapidly. The black population is holding steady. The white population is in decline. Since 2012 alone, 7 million people of color have become eligible to vote. And 50-plus years of voting activity tells us that if these voters register they are significantly more likely to vote for a Democrat than a Republican. The same cannot be said of white voters, who are more evenly divided between the major parties.
If this is news to you, consider reading Steve Philip's book, "Brown is the New White," or, at least the cliff's notes in the form of a Q&A accessible at the link below.
Now, this doesn't mean that Clinton will be rejecting white votes or is ready to veer away from the long tradition of courting white, male, working-class swing voters. She wants them, just like Trump. But it does mean she can win without them.
The problem is, most Democratic Party insiders, consultants and many reporters don't seem to have recognized this reality yet. So, should her speech fail to sufficiently court white men, the criticism and wringing of hands will commence.
5. Show America what a woman president looks like.
Clinton has to help Americans view as totally acceptable, even best, something they have never seen before — a woman in the nation's highest elected office.
Now, there are people convinced that this work is no longer necessary. But, those people are wrong. Why else might Clinton, a candidate now competing with Trump, face a near constant onslaught of commentary about the way she looks, the sound and volume of her voice and the way she laughs. First lady Michelle Obama, a woman familiar with the distinct burdens women in public life shoulder, pointed all of that out during her speech this week.
Clinton has a resume that President Obama described as better than his own or Bill Clinton's when they ran for the White House (all the more interesting since that was a matter of dispute in 2008). But emphasizing this can be a problem, when one is a woman. We kid you not. There's research that shows that when women behave in ways not considered feminine — meaning they are too demanding, too confident, too direct — they are penalized and disliked.
So just think for a moment how complicated the management of this task will be tonight. Whew.
6. Convince the petulant-child slice of the Sanders lobby that there is a difference between her and Donald Trump.
Now, to be clear, we are talking here about the portion of Sanders supporters who seem unable or unwilling to recognize that the party's nomination is now a fait accompli. Some subset of these people seem unaware that in politics it's rare that anyone gets all that they want and even rarer still that one can accomplish one's political aims without binding together with others who share only some of them. Some of these folks are still staging protests outside the convention center and outbursts of protest chant inside the convention hall.
This isn't a huge group. But they are passionate, vocal and inclined to share their ideas online. So, to prevent an outbreak, the spread of election-losing discord inside the party, Clinton needs to convince these workers that she is sufficiently different from Trump to make a protest vote for him unthinkable and sitting the election out unwise.