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DNC 2016: Keep an Eye on These Issues

DNC 2016: Key Issues to Watch

The election analysis provided by Charles Schwab & Co., Inc., does not constitute and should not be interpreted as an endorsement of any candidate or political party.

With the Republican convention winding down, the attention of the political world now moves to Philadelphia, where Democrats will gather July 25-28 for their own convention. How will the party present itself before the election season hits its home stretch?

Here are some of the key issues to watch as next week unfolds:

The advantage of going second: Since 1956, there has been an unofficial agreement between America’s two main parties that the party currently holding the White House gets to hold its convention second. This offers an obvious advantage: Convention speakers can tailor their message to respond specifically to issues raised by their opponents.

This year, Democrats will be ready with point-by-point rebuttals to what the Republicans presented in Cleveland. And while the media will seek out responses from individual Republicans, the party won’t have the opportunity to respond to the Democratic convention in the same way. In that sense, Democrats will get the last word.

A more disciplined, “traditional” convention: The Republican convention had moments of controversy and chaos, frequently strayed from the expected script, and at times seemed disorganized and poorly planned. In many ways, it reflected the party’s candidate, who has a reputation for being unpredictable and unconstrained by the traditional “way things are supposed to be done” in politics.

The Democrats are likely to run a much more carefully choreographed convention. Expect few unscripted moments. Every speaker will keep to his or her time and will deliver a preapproved message in a precisely orchestrated convention. Democrats will try to leave the impression that the way they run their convention is the way that they will govern.

The one potential downside: There is a thin line between “disciplined” and “boring.” If the Republican convention attracted viewers who tuned in just to see what happened next, the Democratic convention will need to make sure that it doesn’t turn off those viewers by being just another political gathering.

Bernie Sanders’ speech: The Vermont senator proved to be a tenacious campaigner during the primary season, winning 22 states and more than 12 million votes. His supporters have not been particularly enthusiastic in transferring their support to Hillary Clinton. It’s likely that convention planners put Sanders in a prime-time speaking slot on the opening night in the hopes that he would fire up his supporters to back Clinton. The hope may be that any lingering frustrations from Sanders’ followers about Clinton winning the nomination will be expressed on the first (and least-watched) night of the convention, and then the Democrats can move on to presenting …

A unified front: The Republican convention did little to indicate that the party is unified behind its candidate. A long list of prominent politicians skipped the Cleveland gathering entirely, and the party’s runner-up for the nomination gave a prime-time speech in which he pointedly did not endorse the nominee.

Democrats dearly want to put the hard-fought primary season behind them and show that their party is unified behind Clinton. There won’t be stories about who is skipping the convention because every major Democratic political figure will be there. The party will undoubtedly emphasize the internal divisions that continue to plague Republicans and present the Democratic Party as a sharp contrast.

Focus on minorities: Clinton is showing enormous leads in the polls with minority voters. Expect the convention to emphasize inclusiveness throughout the week, with a broadly diverse slate of speakers and messages tailored for minority communities. If Clinton can continue to show overwhelming strength with minority voters, she will narrow Donald Trump’s paths to victory.

President Barack Obama’s speech: The outgoing president has traditionally taken a low profile at his party’s convention, preferring to stay in the background while the focus stays on his potential successor. President George W. Bush, for example, did not even appear in person at the Republican convention in 2008, offering only brief comments by video in support of the party’s nominee, John McCain.

President Obama is taking a much more front-and-center approach. He is scheduled to take the stage during prime time on Wednesday night, and his speech is among the most anticipated by Democrats. His speech at the 2004 convention catapulted him to national recognition, and many consider it to be his first significant step on the road to the White House. Expect him to try to re-create that magic and provide a big boost to Clinton before she accepts the nomination on Thursday night.

At the end of the week, the political world is likely to pause to catch its breath. August is traditionally the calm before the storm in presidential politics, as things slow down for a few weeks before the campaigns kick into high gear after Labor Day. But this has been a unique election season, and it’s hard to imagine the campaigns will fail to generate more news in the weeks ahead. We’ll keep tracking them and provide our perspective as things unfold.

What you can do next

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Please note that this content was created as of the specific date indicated and reflects the author’s views as of that date. It will be kept solely for historical purposes, and the author’s opinions may change, without notice, in reaction to shifting economic, business, and other conditions.

Data contained herein from third party providers is obtained from what are considered reliable sources. However, its accuracy, completeness or reliability cannot be guaranteed. Supporting documentation for any claims or statistical information is available upon request.

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