Hillary Clinton is the first female nominee of a major American political party, and she would love for you to vote for the first female president.
But she's okay if you just want to vote against Donald Trump.
In accepting her historic nomination of the Democratic Party on Thursday night, Clinton mentioned Trump by name 21 times and in other ways plenty of other times. She mentioned him throughout the speech. Her comments were often brutal and made for TV — sound bites with real bite.
- "A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons."
- "Donald Trump says he wants to make America great again. Well, he could start by actually making things in America again." (Referring to Trump making his various products overseas)
- "And in the end, it comes down to what Donald Trump doesn't get: that America is great — because America is good."
- "So enough with the bigotry and bombast. Donald Trump's not offering real change."
Clinton's speech comes after, a week before, Trump offered a dark and often factually challenged case against her and the Obama administration.
If you combine Trump's mentions of Clinton and Obama by name with Clinton's mentions of Trump by name, the grand total in the two speeches is 39. In 2012, the two nominees — Obama and Mitt Romney — combined for 13 mentions of their opponents. In 2004, there were only three, combined.
The only recent analog for a nomination acceptance speech that was so much about an opponent was the 2008 campaign, when Barack Obama spent plenty of time decimating John McCain and George W. Bush — 29 combined mentions — often tying McCain to the deeply unpopular Bush.
"Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but, really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 percent of the time?" Obama said. "I don't know about you, but I am not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change."
McCain mentioned Obama just six times in his speech.
And while Trump's speech last week mentioned Clinton and Obama slightly less than Clinton mentioned Trump on Thursday, it was a uniquely fearful view of America. Trump pressed the idea that crime is out of control, even as official crime stats tell a different story. He railed against crimes committed by illegal immigrants and suggested Clinton didn't do enough to prevent the rise of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
To be clear, Clinton's speech on Thursday included plenty of policy goals and high notes, too. The historic nature of the moment — the first female major-party presidential nominee — was a big part of it.
"I'm happy for grandmothers and little girls and everyone in between. I'm happy for boys and men," she said. "Because when any barrier falls in America, it clears the way for everyone. After all, when there are no ceilings, the sky's the limit."
But the decision to also go right to why Americans should vote against the other guy/gal was noteworthy — if not surprising. Clinton and Trump are both the most unpopular major-party presidential nominees in recorded American history. Trump has long been highly unpopular with Americans — peaking at 7 in 10 Americans disliking him. And after the Republican National Convention last week, Clinton's unpopularity for the first time matched Trump's.
With about 6 in 10 Americans disliking each of them — and as many as one-quarter saying they dislike both of them — the 2016 campaign will almost undoubtedly be a race to the bottom. In such a situation, campaigns will almost always focus on making the case that their opponent is unacceptable rather than making a positive case for their candidate. And that was certainly the case in Clinton's and Trump's acceptance speeches.
It's become cliche to decry each election as the most negative of our lives; the atmospherics of this race, though, are completely unique in recent American history -- and uniquely conducive to negativity.
Polling shows voters indeed are already more prepared to vote against something than for something in 2016. A Pew poll this month showed 50 percent of Clinton's supporters said their vote was mostly against Trump, while 55 percent of Trump supporters said their vote was mostly against Clinton.
Apart from the GOP's staunch opposition to Obama in 2012, that's far outside the norm — and it's a recipe for a very negative campaign.
And Trump and Clinton made clear right out of the gate in the general election that that's what this will be.