PHILADELPHIA – Hillary Clinton was set to become the first woman presidential nominee of a major U.S. party on Tuesday, a historic moment that Democrats hope will help eclipse rancor between her supporters and those of her rival in the primaries, Bernie Sanders.
The party will seek to burnish Clinton’s biography and make its formal nomination on the second day of a convention that began on Monday with anti-Clinton feeling among die-hard Sanders supporters on full and vocal display.
The day’s star turn in Philadelphia will be the traditional warm spousal endorsement: with the twist that it will be former President Bill Clinton making the case for his wife to beat Republican Donald Trump in the Nov. 8 election.
“People should really get ready for a show tonight because we’re going to have President Clinton talk about the Hillary that he knows,” Kristina Schake, a spokeswoman for Hillary Clinton, told CNN.
“He’s going to talk about the fights of her life: what she’s really stood up for, who she is, the advocate she is and the change maker,” she said.
Bill Clinton, president from 1993-2001, draws the admiration of many in the party, but carries some liabilities. Liberals, including Sanders supporters, have long been critical of some of his trademark economic policies, such as the NAFTA free trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, and Wall Street deregulation.
At his best, Bill Clinton has been known as one of the most powerful political orators in the country: he made an emotional case in 2012 for the re-election of President Barack Obama.
In Tuesday’s prime-time address he will be capping a day Democrats want to use to showcase Hillary Clinton’s achievements on issues such as women and families, health care and as a former secretary of state.
Hillary Clinton, 68, will be watching him speak from their home in Chappaqua, New York, campaign officials said.
Clinton supporters see her Washington credentials — she has also been a U.S. senator ± as showing she has the experience needed for the White House. Detractors view her as too cozy with the establishment, and with political baggage dating back to the start of her husband’s first White House term.
Opinion polls show Clinton as deeply unpopular with some Americans. Recent polls have given her “unfavorable” ratings that average 55.4 percent, according to the RealClearPolitics website. Trump has a similarly poor number, with “unfavorable” ratings averaging 56.9 percent.
She is still disliked enough by some Sanders supporters for ill feelings to have spilled onto the floor of the convention on Monday, with some delegates booing her name.
But she had full support from the stage, with stirring speeches from Sanders and liberal favorite U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and first lady Michelle Obama.
In her show-stealing address, Michelle Obama linked the coming landmark for women to her husband’s role as the first black U.S. president. “Because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States,” she said.
NBC and CNN reported on Tuesday that talks were underway to have Sanders take part in the evening nomination process, in a sign of party unity.
Jess McIntosh, director of communications outreach for the Clinton campaign, did not confirm this on CNN but said, “It wouldn’t surprise me that talks like that are happening.”
Sanders, a 74-year-old U.S. senator from Vermont, drew a fervent following of youth and liberals during a primary campaign that called for a tough hand on Wall Street and more aggressive steps to counter social inequality.
Having lit a fire, he struggled on Monday to get his supporters in line. At a meeting before the convention began, Sanders was jeered by his own delegates when he urged them to back Clinton and focus on defeating Trump, a man he called a “bully and a demagogue.”
The Democratic gathering contrasted with last week’s Republican convention. Sanders has endorsed Clinton, and the main party leaders all planned to attend.
At the Republican event in Cleveland that nominated Trump as the party’s White House candidate, the runner-up in the primary, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, very publicly did not endorse Trump and a slew of party notables stayed away, including former President George W. Bush and past presidential nominees John McCain and Mitt Romney.
“We have an enormous task ahead of us,” Democratic leader Donna Brazile told a gathering of women delegates on Tuesday. “This is not going to be an easy election, but it’s an election we will win with dignity,” said Brazile, a vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.
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