The presidential primary race winner has remarkably high “negative” poll numbers. Many members of the party base are far from enthusiastic about that nominee, who also faces a troubling credibility gap with the electorate at large.
Yes, Hillary Clinton faces serious challenges as the Democratic convention begins today in Philadelphia.
Of course, those first two sentences also clearly applied to Donald Trump entering last week’s Republican convention in Cleveland. And those problems he shares with Mrs. Clinton still do.
But in an election year when many more Americans than usual have severe concerns about both major-party White House nominees, the conventions are a revealing opportunity for the deciders — the voters who will choose our next president on Nov. 8.
The Republican convention, as expected, was not a smooth ride. Still, Mr. Trump made an aggressive case to the voters in Thursday night’s acceptance speech.
Now it’s Mrs. Clinton’s turn.
Pundits have long debated whether having a convention first or second gives a party an edge. Yet certainly Mrs. Clinton, running mate Tim Kaine and other Democrats will hammer home what they see as shortcomings in the GOP show that ended last Thursday night — and in its controversial nominee.
Still, Mrs. Clinton isn’t without heavy political burdens of her own. A mere three weeks have passed since FBI Director James Comey delivered a withering review of what he called Mrs. Clinton’s “extremely careless” handling of a large number of classified documents while serving as secretary of state during President Barack Obama’s first term.
Though Mr. Comey did not recommend prosecuting her for that appalling breach of security, he did give Republicans considerable campaign fodder — and voters ample cause for concern.
Another hurdle for Mrs. Clinton: Many speakers at the GOP convention warned that electing her would produce “a third Obama term.” Vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, Mr. Trump’s running mate, even derisively dubbed her “Secretary of the Status Quo.”
And many Americans — not just Republicans — have been clamoring during this extraordinary election year for sweeping changes in the halls of power after more than seven years of the Obama presidency.
That demand crossed party lines, driving the stunning successes of Mr. Trump in the GOP race and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic contest. Though Sen. Sanders, a self-described socialist, fell short of the nomination, he did win primaries or caucuses in 22 states while giving Mrs. Clinton surprisingly tough competition.
So how can Mrs. Clinton, a longtime Washington insider, now present herself as an agent of positive transformation while still appealing to the Democratic base that helped Mr. Obama win two White House terms?
Of course, Mr. Trump has a difficult sales job, too, as he tries to become the first candidate since Dwight Eisenhower to win the presidency in an initial run for elective office.
And at this point of widespread discontent with both Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, it appears inevitable that many people will really vote against, not for, one or the other.
There are other options, including the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico, and his running mate William Weld, ex-governor of Massachusetts. They held their convention in late May.
Starting tonight, though, the Democrats will start theirs.
So give them a fair hearing.
Then keep listening carefully to all sides for the next three-plus months so you can cast an informed vote — and not just for president.