Road to the Oval Office: Conventions Preview – July 13

Mark, Howard, and Blake preview the RNC and DNC and discuss how they see the conventions unfolding.


Blake: Thank you very much. Welcome everyone to our continued series discussing the 2016 presidential race. As we noted, we have rebranded this Road to the Oval Office and we're excited about some developments that will be launching in the coming weeks. We'll obviously be live from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, and then eventually this series will evolve into a podcast form, which will be available on iTunes. We'll have a lot more information about that as we get closer to launch.

I wanted to welcome, as always, my colleagues Mark Alderman and Howard Schweitzer from Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies to talk about the state of the political race. Mark, Howard, welcome to the call.

Mark: Thanks, Blake. Good to be here for our 10th call. The time is flying.

Blake: That's exactly right. Time is flying. It has been a few weeks since we've hosted a call, certainly. The early part of summer is a time where it's traditionally a big quieter. The gap between the end of the primaries which concluded first and second week of June to the conventions are usually opportunities for campaigns to regroup, rebuilt their coffers, transition from a primary election strategy to a general election strategy, identify their running mates, and then relaunch at the convention. This has hardly been a quiet summer, Mark. It's been a very active summer.

Before we get to a discussion of the Republican National Convention, which begins Monday in Cleveland, I want to just talk about a couple of big events that we did see over the summer that have impacted this race. I want to start first with Donald Trump because it was ... After his successful primary bid, we had talked a number of times on these calls about whether Trump was capable of not necessarily rebranding Trump, but minimizing some of the very big mistakes that Trump is prone to make and whether he was capable of installing some discipline both in his campaign organization and in himself to avoid the mishaps that really have driven his negatives very high and, for a while, put him at a very serious disadvantage against the Democrats.

That really, to an extent, has and has not happened. We saw in recent weeks, Donald Trump's campaign publishing a tweet with a six-pointed star next to a pile of cash as an attack against Hilary Clinton which many people declared was not only anti-Semitic, but hateful. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is the publisher of the New York Observer, had to respond to his father-in-law's tweet in an op ed in his own newspaper. Then Donald Trump also declared that Saddam Hussein was very good at killing terrorists, which prompted a very swift backlash from a wide swath of Democrats and Republicans.

On the Democratic side we have what was very big news in that the FBI made a recommend to the Justice Department not to bring charges against Secretary Hilary Clinton or anyone on her staff regarding her use of a private email server while she was in the State Department. At the same time, the director of the FBI made some very stern comments about that practice, declaring that it was extremely careless, among other things, and then later testified before Congress, and the attorney general of the United States, who accepted the FBI's recommendations also, testified before Congress about it.

Mark, it's been a pretty busy summer. Before we get to the conventions, I thought I would just get your perspective on the impact of those events or other events that we've seen leading up to Cleveland and really just how you see the state of these candidates as we get into two full weeks of convention activity.

Mark: Agreed. Everything you said I think is spot on. Both candidates have been going in all different directions. I think that Trump, not withstanding the tweet and the Hussein comments, has actually, in the last four or five days since the atrocities in Dallas, conducted himself in a more presidential manner certainly than we saw after the Orlando tragedy. I think Secretary Clinton has been hurt by the FBI press conference. I think we had to find out what the shelf life is on that. At the same time, just look at yesterday. This has been such an extraordinary cycle, some good, some bad, most in between, but every day bring remarkable events.

Yesterday alone you had President Obama and former President Bush addressing the ceremonies in Dallas, which was a very meaningful moment, I think, for the whole nation. You had, at the same time, Bernie endorsing Hilary in the manner that only Bernie could manage. It was a Bernie Sanders endorsement is what it was where he talked a lot more about himself than about her, but he did it and that is meaningful. You have the absolutely, to my mind, unprecedented back and forth between a sitting Supreme Court Justice and the Republican nominee.

I think the only thing you can reliably say about the state of the race and the state of these candidacies is that it is all yet to be determined. It is razor thin close nationally and in the swing states. The conventions are going to be important. Really, I expect it to continue going in this absolutely unprecedented way right through November 8th.

Blake: Mark, I don't want to elaborate a little bit on the events of yesterday because I think they certainly have cast a shadow, if you will, over this presidential race. We obviously had to echo your words and sentiments; the atrocities in Dallas. Then a powerful event yesterday with both former President Bush who is beginning to play a more active role on the Republican campaign trail, but won't be at the Republic National Convention, and President Obama, who has played a big role in the last few weeks with Secretary Clinton and who we expect will play a very big role at the Democratic National Convention.

I wonder, Mark, if you might just elaborate on your reactions to yesterday not really so much in the 2016 context, but just in the context of the American political landscape. It goes without say it's incredibly unfortunate that the two presidents were there under those sad circumstances. Nevertheless, it is a reminder, I think, both of certainly some of the opportunities that Republicans see with former President Bush and some of his comments and certainly the powerful oratory of President Obama which, in my own mind, and you know the president much better than I do and are much more familiar with the arc of his oratory, but may have been the best speech I ever heard him give.

Mark: I think so, Blake. I thought that it was the best speech that he has ever given. I thought it was exactly the speech that the nation needs completely apart from politics and this presidential cycle. We are a nation in mourning for the five officers who were murdered in Dallas, as well as for the two unarmed black men who were killed by police the same week. There is violence all around us and the American heart is big enough to mourn both sides at the same time. Without politicizing this, I think it is a question about the country's soul. The question is whether these events which we all pray stop happening but we all know are not going to, whether these events cause us as a country in this election to look for someone who can unite us or whether these events drive us into an event deeper division.

If these events causes us to seek someone who can unite us, not withstanding her many limitations and flaws, I think that Secretary Clinton has better the side of that. I don't think anybody thinks that Donald Trump is the candidate to unite the nation. If, on the other hand, each side here goes to its corner and regroups for the next round of the fight, then we are going to see an election that is going to be extremely brutal and extremely close, and nobody has an advantage in that election, least of all the country.

Howard: Black, it's Howard.

Blake: I was going to get your thoughts and reactions to that.

Howard: Obviously yesterday was incredibly moving and important for the country, but I think it's not so much, for me, a nation divided, undivided, who can bring us together. It's the contrast between what we saw: one sitting president and one former president come together to do yesterday and the divisiveness which of course we're going to have up until election day, Mark. There's no ifs, and, or buts about it. That, to me, is what stood out. I think both of these candidates are that by nature. They always have been. Hilary always has been.

If they'd stop shooting themselves in each of their own two feet, which is what's happening more than anything else, maybe we could make some headway. Until then, it's not so much the fact that it's a dived country or not a divided country, but it's going to be a very harsh and divided election.

Blake: Let's use that as a pivot point to these conventions because ... Presidential conventions, and, Mark, you and Howard both have been to many of them, as have I. They evolve. I was up the other night and on C-SPAN and the 1976 Republican Convention was playing on Television. It was as if you were literally watching an organic documentary. There was no theater of any kind. It was just the business of the convention. Here we are today where Donald Trump is going to come into Cleveland, certainly not shy to the power of the medium of Television and the value of a carefully curated convention.

These conventions also give both candidates an opportunity based on, I think, some of the things that we saw over the summer and I think some of the sentiments that we're seeing in the country that both of you have articulated as an opportunity to frame their candidacy. I want to start just because Cleveland is right around the corner. You both will be in Cleveland. Jim Schultz from Cozen O'Connor is already in Cleveland. You'll be there with an eye towards what's taking place.

Howard, I want to come back to you and get some general thoughts about what Cleveland means for Donald Trump. How does Trump utilize the conventions and the opportunity that the convention presents to frame his general election candidacy or correct some of the challenges that he's created both for himself and for the electorate as he looks to springboard into the fall?

Howard: Blake, my expectation for Cleveland is as follows. First of all, I think the Republican Party's going to be appear to be a divided party and there's going to be a struggle, not that's going to result in somebody other than Donald J. Trump being the candidate but there's going to continue to be a struggle for the future of the Republican Party. I think we're in the midst of watching that live. We may be witnessing the demise of the Republican Party.

I think fundamentally what Trump's going to do is the same thing he's done for the entire campaign, which is, first of all, surprise us in some ways, and, second of all, use the convention and maybe even the controversy at the convention, not maybe even, but I think most definitely the controversy at the convention to continue to position himself as the candidate who is willing to take on the establishment. If that's the only thing he gets out of Cleveland, along with some good production value, I think he will have considered it a success. This is not conventions as usual.

Blake: Mark, I want to get your thoughts about Trump's positioning at the RNC. We're seeing now that some high profile folks around going to speak at the convention. Speaker Paul Ryan's going to speak at the convention, but he's going to talk about his agenda, not necessarily a Trump agenda. My former home state of Arkansas, Senator Tom Cotton announced he'll speak at the convention, but he's talking about his agenda for military and veterans. There seems to be a lot of that, Mark, a lot of speakers who are talking about their agenda, not necessarily Donald Trump's agenda. I wonder if you think, A) Does any of that matter? B) If you're Trump, how do yu create synergy at a convention where it really feels like it's every man for himself?

Mark: I think that is what is happening and I think it does not matter. What is happening is very interesting because you have still the machinery of the Republican Party dominated by the conservatives. You have the most conservative platform in Republican Party history that has just promulgated and you have the presumptive nominee with half the things in his own platform on trade, on abortion, and more, and yet he doesn't care because he isn't a Republican, he isn't a conservative, he is Donald Trump, and he is running against the very people who just wrote his platform and who are producing the convention.

What he has is a majority of the delegates, and that's all that matters to him. I think what you're going to see is all of those aforementioned conservative leaders coming and talking to each other about their agenda and Trump's standing up there and saying as he has repeatedly and has been true, "Good for you. I can win with you, I can win without you. I'd rather have you on my side, but if you choose not to be, go. Because I'm Donald Trump and I'm going to win as Donald Trump." It's a darn unusual convention that we're about to attend out there.

Blake: Howard, one of the big things to come, of course, is the announcement of Trump's vice presidential candidate, which word has come today that he's planning an event for Friday in which he'll unveil his pick. I promise not to make any Apprentice jokes on this call, but his audition process has been fairly public and it has involved a number of people. It seems that the leading contenders right now are Indiana Governor Mike Pence, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Whether that's right or not, this is Donald Trump and I think I would expect one of your reactions to one of my forthcoming questions being, "Who knows?," because Trump could change his mind at the last minute.

We have, on previous calls, and I think would call agree, that this is a significant moment for Trump and that his VP pick is a political advantage to him if he gets it right. If he gets it wrong, of course, we've seen where that can devolve into a liability. Howard, we might just get your general thoughts about the value of the VP pick to Trump and then some commentary about where you think this goes.

Howard: Blake, we know from past elections that, at the end of the day, the VP doesn't really move the needle a whole heck of a lot in terms of the level people decide to pull in November. This is a different election but, at the end of the day, it's about Trump and it's about Hilary. Maybe because Trump is a political quote unquote novice, it matters a little bit more. That remains to be seen. I think among those three, Christie is clearly going to end up in a Trump administration in a position of resposibl9ty, either White House Chief of Staff or Attorney General. I doubt he winds up as the VP because, although Trump is more comfortable with him, he's got baggage, and that's going to undermine their ability to take Hilary to the political woodshed over her own baggage which I'd love to go back to at some point.

Among Pence and Gingrich, what I've heard from inside the campaign is that Trump is more personally comfortable with Gingrich and that his people are more comfortable with Pence. You got to figure, at the end of the day, one, like you said, he'll probably make a bit of an impulsive choice at the end of the day, but just based on that you got to give the nod to what he's most personally comfortable with, and so I guess that's Gingrich.

What does that get him? It gets him somebody that can speak to the issues, is going to be a good debater, and maybe gives him a little bit more eloquence from a policy point of view. It doesn't get him somebody who's going to improve his relations with Congress or who knows how to run government. Frankly, none of these picks excite me, and I think if he was a less polarizing candidate he'd have many better choices. I guess I'd have to say Gingrich at this point based on what we're hearing.

Mark: It doesn't matter in my view. This is, as Howard just said, about Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton. The vice presidential pick rarely matters. You have to almost go back to 1960 in Kennedy and Johnson and Johnson carrying Texas for, really, two of counted, but it is all upside for Trump because even if he blows the pick ... The most recent example of that would be McCain and Palin where, after a burst of enthusiasm, she proved herself to be completely unqualified and that hurt McCain's candidacy. I can't imagine who Donald Trump could pick who could hurt his candidacy. He's already done all of the many things we know would've disqualified any other candidate and he's about to claim the nomination.

I think there is almost no downside for him. I think there is only upside, but very little upside. Having no idea what this man is actually going to do, I think Gingrich is probably the pick because he does what he wants, Trump that is, and we know he is comfortable with Gingrich. I will just observe one more extraordinary fact here. It was pointed out to me by a Democratic, I admit, friend of mine yesterday: Ronald Reagan was the first president elected who had been divorced.

That was now 30-some years ago, but look where we have come. If Newt Gingrich is Donald Trump's running mate, you will have two candidates who, between them, will have had six wives and nobody cares. Nobody's talking about that, either. I go back to what I said before. It is the most unusual election any of us has ever seen.

Blake: Just a reminder to all of our readers: we'll be doing a call next week live from Cleveland. We'll get information out about that, but both of you will be on the ground there. I'm certainly interested to see what it's like. We haven't talked about some of the external challenges that could overshadow Cleveland, things that happen either inside the arena involving disruptions from delegates and interest groups or outside the arena. It'll be interesting once you're on the ground in Cleveland an we have a real sense of what the look and feel of that convention is actually like. I think it'll be fun to talk about. I'm looking forward to that next week.

I do want to pivot to the Democrats and, Howard, come back to you with just some commentary about where you see the state of the Clinton campaign in the aftermath of the FBI director's comments about the email server, the decision not to recommend charges and the fallout from that optically and then. Mark and I discussed a little bit of that from his perspective, but I wanted to invite you into that conversation as a preview to the Democratic National Convention.

Howard: Thanks. I think it fits in because I think Hilary has much more to gain from her convention than Trump does from his in the sense that she's got to use this to move past all that. She's got to use it to generate enthusiasm for her candidacy among the core of the Democratic Party. The president, Elizabeth, Bernie ... All of the major people that will speak, she's got to emerge from there, and I think probably will, with a united Democratic Party that stands in stark contrast to a divided Republican Party that's motivated to go to the poles for her in November.

It's been a horrible period for her. Deservedly so. Again, her staff took out a gun and shot themselves in the foot. That's what's gone on here. They have no one to blame for what's transpired but themselves. It's unbelievable. You wouldn't believe this if you read it in a novel. They got taken to task. The notion that they would be so cavalier on this email thing and knowingly put out misinformation to the public, I think very carefully not lied under oath or lied to a government official, but that's the perception she's got to deal with now. She's got to deal with the juxtaposition of having lied to the American people and told the truth to the FBI and not gotten held accountable for it.

It's political accountability. The FBI director took her to task politically and her job now is to put the past in the past and move over it, move beyond it, and that's what the convention represents.

Blake: Mark, the convention here in our home base of Philadelphia, the city is beginning to come alive in terms of its planning, I think, and enthusiasm and excitement for the convention. Based on Howard's comments, Mark, one, do you believe that Hilary has more to gain from her convention, and, two, is the convention the opportune time to move past some of the challenges we've talked about?

Mark: I do agree that she has more to gain because I believe it's the opportunity to pull the party together and circle the wagons around her, as Howard said, the president, vice president, Senator Warren, Senator Sanders, Senator Booker and more, and it is traditional platform and place for doing that, so I expect it to be a very positive convention. I think that moving past the email scandal is going to take more than a good convention, although it should be a good start.

I think that one of her challenges, and we've talked about this before, I think it's actually part of the calculus in her vice presidential pick, one of her challenges is that there are going to be a number of people at that convention, speaking from the rostrum and otherwise, who are going to generate a lot more excitement than Hilary Rodham-Clinton is going to. She has to pull the party together, circle everybody around her without becoming invisible in the process. That is going to require the performance of a lifetime by her on Thursday night.

Blake: We can never discount the theatrics in the age of Television. We also can't discount the power of a major speech at a convention. I certainly harken back to 2012 and President Bill Clinton's speech at that convention, which I thought was a big moment in that campaign for President Obama and generated a lot of enthusiasm and energy. At the same time, we've seen big mistakes at conventions in 2012. Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair is one example.

With that in mind, Mark, there are news reports out that Elizabeth Warren may be speaking on Monday night. I think you would agree that she's one of those people who's going to generate a lot of enthusiasm. If she's speaking on Monday night it suggests that she's not going to be the vice presidential pick, and in previous calls and conversations she certainly was high on your list if you were in charge of the process. I wonder if you might just talk about how do you ... You were there both in 2012 and 2008 directly with the president, you've been to connections many times. How does the Clinton campaign really deal with that? How does it deal with an enthusiasm gap even within the Wells Fargo Center where this convention's going to take place?

Mark: I think she has to hope that it follows one path rather than another. The memorable speech at a convention is almost never the nominee. Sometimes the memorable speech is wonderful for the nominee as President Clinton's was in 2012 for President Obama, as State Senator Barack Obama's was in 2004 for John Carey. In 1980, Ted Kennedy's the dream will never die speech was not especially helpful for President Carter, and we know how that election ended. There is precedent on both sides. I think that what she has to do is embrace whomever and whatever is said that excites the hall. She has to be part of it instead of on the other side of it. Carter was on the wrong side of one of the great speeches in convention history. Carey and Obama were on the right side of great speeches. To be on the right side, she has to embrace and make it part of her own.

Blake: Thankfully, the Democrats have an opportunity here. I have a different perspective. It's not Hilary embracing what other people say, it's other people embracing Hilary. This is all about message discipline. Usually it's the Democrats that are the more diverse and unpredictable at a convention. I think in this case it's clearly going to be the Republicans. Can the Democrats coalesce enough and be on their Hilary message enough and have a unified message enough and be disciplined enough so everything leads up to Hilary's speech on Thursday night and she can say, "What all of them said?"

This is about message discipline and unification. If they can do that, it's going to be a great convention. If they come off as a splintered party or as the progressive wing versus the moderate wing, it's not going to be as successful. I think it's that simple.

Mark: I think what we're going to see is each side getting through its convention in largely the same place where they are now. I think you're going to find we're going to have a good convention, the Republicans are going to have an okay convention, and then it's August and they're still going to be within the margin of error in these polls. I think that world events are going to shape this election. We, of course, don't know what they are, but they are very unlikely to be good.

I also thing, intrinsic within the campaign itself, the debates are going to be as important, maybe more so than ever before because all the rest is everybody else talking about these two, and three times the American people are going to see these two standing there, debating each other, and I expect those to be enormous consequential.

Howard: One thing that's interesting, just logistically, this year is the conventions are a month earlier than they'd been at least in recent cycles, and so you've got so much more time between the convention and the election. That's more time for other stuff to matter than for the convention to matter, which isn't to say that the conventions don't matter. I think we'll have a ton to talk about over the next two weeks. It does set up a different dynamic.

Blake: It's something I wanted to follow up on with both of you which, number one, you have the conventions earlier, too. They're back to back. Normally we talk about a post-convention bounce of some kind. It's possible that these conventions in essence become a wash to your point, Mark. I have in front of me a new Quinnipiat [inaudible 00:41:46] poll today, battlegrounds state poll, that shows, statistically, Clinton and Trump tied in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. If those polls are right ... There's some questions about the sampling and other others.

We're going to see, I think, a trove of data over the next 24 to 48 hours as we try and get a snapshot of where this electorate is before these conventions, and it may be closer than we thought that it was. I think one that I wanted to comment on a little bit about the Democrats where ... I think this is really going to be a fascinating convention to watch, not only because you've got some big personalities to manage, people who can have showstopper moments. Not just Elizabeth Warren, but Bernie Sanders is going to play a big role presumably at this convention. Certainly the role of the president, the vice president. What role does Bill Clinton play? Cory Booker? You've got stars within the Democratic Party and you got to figure out how to make all that come together and weave a coherent narrative.

Which I think certainly can be done by the Democrats but isn't always as easy as it sounds. We focus on the Republicans from a problematic perspective, but the Democrats have to get that messaging right and stay aligned. As they Republicans have the most conservative platform in party history, the Democrats have the most liberal platform in party history. It'll be pretty interesting how all that comes together.

We exit conventions, Howard, to your point, in August. Then we really do gear up for these debates, which I think are perhaps even going to be the most consequential ... Certainly presidential debates are always consequential, but these seem to be building to have an extraordinary consequence. I think it'll make for a fascinating process as both of these candidates begin to position and get ready for three, I think, heavyweight bouts. I think they're going to be really something to see.

Mark: On the polls quickly, if I may, and this doesn't cut either way. In fact, because they're essentially tied, it cuts both ways. It's still way too soon and early to know anything. In July of 2000, Gore led Bush. In July of 2004, Carey led Bush. In July of 2008, McCain led Obama. In July of 2012, Romney led Obama. It's just too early for these polls to tell you much at all.

Blake: I think that's right, Mark. I think one thing, though, that is interesting; it does give us a sense of trend. I think of the trends that I think the media's going to exploit over the next 24 to 48 hours, and I think is to Howard's point about how to use a convention move [inaudible 00:45:31]. Hilary's honest and trustworthy numbers have taken a rather steep decline and we're seeing additional data from young people where Hilary's performing poorly. Only 26% of young whites have a favorable impression of her, only 49% of young Hispanics have a favorable impression of her. She's upside down in honest and trustworthy not just with those voters, but with every sampling in the Quinnipiac poll of voters in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and that was not the case three weeks ago.

I think to an extent, of course, you're exactly right, but I do think there's a trend developing here that I do think the Democratic convention, and then what happens after that as the campaign really pivots to the general, can do to address that. Because it would certainly seem that that is a consequence of the FBI press conference and the determinations and comments made by the FBI director. I think you do have to deal with that, Mark, and that's where I think this data has some relevance and value to how the Clinton maneuvers and, in some ways, reacts to Trump's convention, too.

Howard: It's interesting that the data on younger voters keeps coming out so negatively for her. I saw an Iowa poll, I think it was a Monmouth poll, among younger voters where he was trouncing her. She's got to find a way to speak to young people. Blake, if I could turn the tables on the moderator, you may want to opine on the follow which is: how disciplined is the Clinton campaign? Because I think everything we've seen to date, including the fallout from the FBI investigation, was predictable. They knew this was coming. It could've only been worse, but it was never going to be better. We know the Trump campaign is undisciplined by nature.

How much is the Clinton campaign making this up as they go along everyday versus executing a long-term battle plan? If they can execute a long-term battle plan and they stay disciplined, she's going to win this election. Obviously on some level you have to react to each day's events, but, if they are disciplined, she's going to win. If they're not, she has a much lower chance. Is she or isn't she? What do you think about that?

Blake: This is a moment for the moderate to comment. We'll see how this goes. We talked a little bit about this a few weeks ago in our big moments of the primary season, and one of mine was that the Clinton campaign didn't panic after New Hampshire. It stayed disciplined, it stuck to its plan, and it won Nevada. It kept its team together. All of the things that you saw that were problematic about Clinton's campaign in '08, the undisciplined nature of the infrastructure, the undisciplined nature of the message, the lack of planning in caucus states, the challenges with surrogates I think have been minimized in this campaign.

I think there's absolutely a long-term plan. I think they've stuck to it. I think that's why they won the primaries even though Bernie surged and did better than anyone ever expected him to do. I think that discipline is there, However. I think there's lots of evidence out there on the execution side, on the mechanics of the campaign side. I think you can look at her at her field organizations in battleground states. Pennsylvania alone is on pace to, I think, be a bigger and more sophisticated field operation than Obama had in 2012 in Pennsylvania, whereas Trump's just not there in any of those mechanics.

I think the mechanics are all there, Howard. No question. Message discipline is always a challenge for any candidate certainly because you do have to react to the dynamics. Trump, because he is undisciplined and unpredictable, that creates challenges. I don't mean that to suggest that they're deficiencies of Hilary Clinton, I just think they create challenges and you got to react in the right way. I think she has gotten much better at that. She's given some very strong speeches refuting Donald Trump. She is not afraid to go after him.

I think even the message discipline is coming together nicely. I think, Howard, the challenge here is what we've talked about, it's what Mark talked about at the convention, it's what some of this data is showing is the Democrats have to deal with the enthusiasm. I know that VP picks don't move the needle, I know we've said it, I know we've talked about it, but, Mark, the VP pick here could have something to say about enthusiasm, and that's a deficiency in this campaign.

Mark: I agree. I want to say one thing about a strength and then come right back to the VP. In addition to everything that you said about the campaign, Blake, I think it is an enormous strength of the Clinton campaign that the campaign as an organization and Bill and Hilary Clinton as individuals, they have never underestimated Donald Trump. None of this is taking them by surprise. A lot of Democrats we both know have run around proclaiming the election over six different times now, and meanwhile here we are and it's tied. The Clintons have never presumed that this was going to be easy. I think hat they have a tremendous strength in having very early on accepted that this was going to be the war that it is.

On the enthusiasm, I've said it on these calls before, I've published it, I've been on Television talking about it, and I'm going to be proven wrong one more time; I think she should pick Elizabeth Warren. I think that picking Tim Kane, whom I know and like and trust and respect, or picking Tom Vilsack about whom I could say the same, I think that that is the safe bet and I think that there is no safe place to be when running against Donald Trump. I think she should pick an Elizabeth Warren or a Cory Booker, someone who is going to energize that ticket. Because in an election against Trump, trying to play it safe is going to result in exactly what the 17 Republican contenders found: it's going to result in 2nd through 17th place.

Blake: Guys, with that, we are coming to the end of this call. I certainly want to thank everyone for listening. We both previewed it and we didn't get to it on this call, but I think we will certainly come back to in the weeks ahead, which is the ramifications of international events on this campaign and what it means for these candidates. I'm not just talking about the threats of ISIS, although we're certainly going to need to talk about that since it will be a voting issue, but also as we learn a little bit more about Brexit and as we learn a little bit more about the state of the EU and what consequences, if any, that might have on this election, I think there'll be some interesting things to talk about.

Again, I'm excited that the conventions are, I think it's always a fun time for people who love politics, and I'm looking forward to our call next week in Cleveland. We'll get information out about that and [inaudible 00:55:07] excited to hear your perspectives once you've had some time to spend on the ground there. Then we'll certainly be hosting calls from Philadelphia as the Democratic National Convention kicks off on July 25th.  With that, again, thanks everyone for listening. Mark, Howard, thanks to you for participating in the call and we look forward to talking to everyone on our next call. Thanks again.

Mark: Thank you, Blake.

Howard: Thanks.


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