PHILADELPHIA — Industry officials and political observers said Hillary Clinton’s historic acceptance speech here Thursday night was a success on all counts — but executives remained concerned about her stance on trade.
While it remains to be seen how successful Clinton was in swaying undecided voters, the general consensus was that she and the Democrats successfully portrayed a vision for the future that left the party more unified.
The Wells Fargo Center was filled beyond capacity as people sat on the steps in overcrowded aisles to get a glimpse of the first woman ever elected as the presidential nominee of a major party.
Delegates waved full-size American flags, often chanting “USA, USA” and Clinton’s name. The convention floor was overflowing and while the patriotic garb was more muted at the Democratic convention here than that of the Republican gathering, the spirit was anything but.
Even the delegation floor was packed with little room to move. Journalists elbowed their way as close as they could to the stage.
Immediately following her speech, CNN flashed a poll which said 71 percent of viewers gave it a “very positive ” review, 15 percent “somewhat positive,” and 12 percent “negative.”
Although that poll was likely taken of a majority of Democratic voters, the overwhelmingly positive results largely surprised the media. Google Trends also released some analytics of its own with search interest in “volunteer for Hillary Clinton” up 130 percent more than after “volunteer for Donald Trump” on the night of his speech. Search interest in “donate” to Clinton’s campaign was also up 30 percent higher than Trump on the night of their speeches, among others.
Industry officials and others noted that Clinton’s speech successfully brought the party together.
“Hilary Clinton succeeded masterfully in unifying the Democratic party, appealing smartly to the supporters of Bernie Sanders, and positioning herself for the general election, as well as introducing her vice presidential nominee [Sen. Tim Kaine] who will appeal to centrists and independents,” said Marick Masters, a business professor and director of labor at Wayne State University. “She should get a considerable boost in the polls, which will be aided by Donald Trump’s woeful mishandling of the DNC e-mail leak by encouraging Russian interference in the U.S. election.”
Masters said the defining issues of the campaign “will be about what we want the future of America to look like.”
Both candidates will have to overcome negative public perceptions to win over the broader voting public.
“This campaign will boil down to a battle between two candidates with high negatives,” Masters said. “Clinton suffers from being perceived as untrustworthy and conniving.…Trump can be painted, and will be painted, as irresponsible and dangerous.
“The candidates will paint starkly contrasting pictures, as Hillary Clinton did in her extremely effective acceptance speech, which vastly out-classed Trump’s rant,” he said. “Clinton painted a picture of America as a land of opportunity which needs to do more to promote economic advancement and justice, particularly for the middle class and disadvantaged.”
Industry officials gave a thumbs-up to Clinton’s speech, and took note that she did not mention her opposition to the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, though she said on the campaign trail that she does not support it, leaving many in the business community disappointed.
In her only reference to trade, Clinton said: “If you believe that we should say no to unfair trade deals; that we should stand up to China; that we should support our steelworkers and autoworkers and homegrown manufacturers, then join us.”
By contrast, Trump included a big antitrade section in his acceptance speech in Cleveland last week, reiterating threats to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada and withdraw the U.S. from TPP.
Clinton also took a jab at Trump’s promise to “Make America Great Again,” and his signature Donald J. Trump suit and tie collection, which is reportedly made by licensees in China and Mexico, two countries he has railed against on the hustings.
“He also talks a big game about putting America first,” Clinton said. “Well, please explain what part of America First leads him to make Trump ties in China, not Colorado; Trump suits in Mexico, not Michigan; Trump furniture in Turkey, not Ohio; Trump picture frames in India, not Wisconsin.
“Donald Trump says he wants to make America great again. Well, he could start by actually making things in America again,” Clinton admonished.
“Remarkable in that she barely mentioned trade,” said David Spooner, a partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, who was the chief textile and apparel negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative under former President George W. Bush. “In the 56-minute speech she had one sentence on trade, which generally said she’d oppose ‘unfair’ trade deals.
“Notably, she resisted pressure from Sanders supporters to explicitly oppose TPP in her acceptance speech,” Spooner said. “Trump, meanwhile, devoted several paragraphs of his speech to rail against trade agreements, and expressly opposed TPP.”
Rick Helfenbein, president and chief executive officer of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, said he thought Clinton’s speech was “hugely successful.”
“Clearly appealing to the ‘Feel the Bern’ crowd, she crossed the aisle once again and bridged the gap toward party unity,” Helfenbein said.
“In her speech, Secretary Clinton made no mention of TPP, adding credence to the opinion that the Democrats feel they now have the TPP rebellion under control. Instead, she just borrowed a phrase from Nancy Reagan: ‘Just say no’ to unfair trade deals,” he added.
Helfenbein said Clinton’s references to “Mr. Trump’s international sourcing habits was solely to reference the Democrat’s desire to manufacture more in America.”
Similarly, Julia Hughes, president of the U.S. Fashion Industry Association, said the night was “very successful for Hillary.”
“The speeches throughout the convention also reached out to independents and to voters who maybe were uncertain about [her],” said Hughes. “And the convention seemed to successfully reach out to communicate the ways that Hillary will lead and handle issues. There was a positive atmosphere this week and I think the historic breakthrough that Hillary is the first woman nominated as president means there will be a positive bounce in the polls.”
She said her members are still disappointed about Clinton’s stance and the party platform’s skepticism on trade.
“Now we have 101 days until the election and it will be quite a battle,” Hughes said.
Journalists and political observers also praised Clinton’s speech.
“In some ways, the speech was more prose than poetry…but it was clear there was emotion there,” said MSNBC political reporter Kasie Hunt Friday morning.
“Her speech was authentic,” said Steve Schmidt, a Republican strategist. “It hit all the notes.”
He highlighted how Clinton was able to speak to Independents, Republicans and progressives, while also touching on her “American values.”
Her line about Trump: “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons,” resonated.
(For the record, since her speech, Trump has blasted out a slew of critical tweets about Clinton, the media and her supporters).
Journalist David Gregory said during the presidential race, Clinton will have to “own up to her record” serving as Secretary of State under President Obama, adding that she gave Republican voters, who are dissatisfied with Trump, “a place to go.”
That sentiment carried through to the convention at large. The media pointed to the way the Democratic National Convention highlighted victims of police shootings and families of slain police officers. It also gave a voice to victims of gun violence, the military and immigrants.
Journalist and political analyst Mike Barnicle called the convention “transformational.”
“It engendered hope,” added Mika Brzezinski, cohost of “Morning Joe.”
She explained that the convention, especially as it “came to a crescendo last night,” reflected all the” problems” the country is facing.
“Think about the convention last week…or shall we?” Brzezinski said, referring to last week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland. “It ripped to shreds Cleveland…just remember Cleveland? I don’t want to.”
Meanwhile, historian and political commentator Doris Kearns Goodwin told “CBS This Morning” that she believes Clinton has the “temperament” to be president, before addressing the larger significance of her candidacy, namely that she’s a woman. “It still mystifies me it took so long,” Kearns Goodwin said. “I think it’s big and it’s historic.”