Sen. Tim Kaine’s textbook rollout on Saturday feels like a lifetime ago. Most of the polls released Monday show Donald Trump now holding a single-digit lead, with CNN reporting that Clinton is trailing Trump among white working-class voters by nearly 40 points and male voters by double digits. Back in early June, folks were talking of a Clinton blowout; not any more. This is a horse race.
And at the Democratic convention this week, the speakers appear to be aimed at energizing the base, as opposed to winning converts to the cause. Elizabeth Warren, check; Bernie Sanders, check. Lena Dunham, the creator and star of Girls, will also be speaking to the assembled in Philadelphia, as will Lezley McSpadden, mother of the late Michael Brown.
On Sunday, it was announced that Michael Bloomberg, New York City’s former mayor and an independent, will appear too. But it is unlikely that Bloomberg will win many votes outside the precincts of high-income America. Scarsdale and Larchmont are already voting for Clinton, and New York State remains reliably blue. Rather, Mayor Mike’s speech will likely remind everyone of his successor’s ineptitude and be interpreted as “Wall Street likes Hillary.”
Although it’s early to forecast November’s outcome, the convention may also be morphing into a prelude to a rerun of the 2014 elections, when the Democrats lost the Senate. Nate Silver, the numbers guru, is saying that Trump would likely win if the election were held today, and he shows Florida, Iowa, and Ohio all trending red. Trump is doing more than just nipping at Clinton’s heels.
Along with the overall electorate, non-college-grad whites are distrustful of Clinton—just more so. They are also particularly alarmed by the Ferguson Effect, or as FBI Director James Comey calls it, the “viral video effect”: the increased murder rate in major American cities stemming from the heightened scrutiny of police.
Nationwide, at the end of the first quarter of 2016, there were 1,365 reported homicides, up from 1,251 for the same period in 2015. For the “in” party, that’s not good news. Like Elvis Costello sang back in the day, “there are some things you can’t cover up with lipstick and powder.”
John J. Pitney Jr., a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, framed things this way: “When crime goes up, it’s not the economic and social elites who notice first. They live in nice suburbs, gated communities, or well-guarded apartment buildings.”
Throw in terrorism and the nexus between refugees and violence, and it is understandable why Clinton’s numbers are sagging. And given Clinton’s dependency on her party’s upstairs-downstairs coalition, she has to be careful while attempting to address working- and middle-class concerns. Twenty-four years and a political universe have passed since the 1992 Democratic primaries, when Bill Clinton left the trail to oversee the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a self-lobotomized cop-killer.
With more Democratic National Committee emails seeing the light of day, and the resignation of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, it’s the Democrats who are looking like the Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight. Competence, a supposed Clinton calling card, is in doubt. Indeed, unlike Melania Trump’s plagiarism blow-up, Clinton’s woes actually claimed a real-life, trophy-sized scalp: instead of gaveling the convention to order, Schultz will now face the wrath of Bernie Bro Tim Canova in an upcoming primary.
So while Clinton can take credit for tapping Kaine, Virginia’s current junior senator, Kaine by himself is unlikely to restore Clinton’s tarnished standing. She will need to do that herself, and trust is difficult to regain after it has been lost.
Heading toward November, the choice will be framed as “vote your conscience” or “lock her up.” It will come down to Clinton and Trump, not their running mates.
Lloyd Green was an alternate delegate to the 1988 Republican National Convention, was opposition research counsel to George H.W. Bush’s 1988 campaign, and served in the Department of Justice between 1990 and 1992.