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Conventional Wisdom: The Democratic Convention Is Off To A Rocky Start

We’ll be reporting from Philadelphia all week and live-blogging each night. Check out all our dispatches from the Democratic convention here.

PHILADELPHIA — Prepping for a week of sunburn and sleep deprivation for the love of the party, Democrats are wending their way to Philadelphia for their convention this week. What awaits them? So much. This is America in 2016, after all.

The biggest story out of Philadelphia is the precipitous tumble from grace of Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, casting into sharp relief the differences between the Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton wings of the party. On Friday, as politicos wandered home to do laundry and remind their children what they looked like, WikiLeaks released 20,000 emails from committee staff, part one of what the group called “our new Hillary Leaks series.” (I.e., more to come … what is it with Democrats and email this year?)

Anyhow, the leaked batch of emails contained messages making plain what many observers had long suspected — that the Democratic National Committee was very much on the side of Clinton’s campaign and was annoyed as hell at Sanders. One of the mostcited emails in news reports suggested that Sanders’s perceived atheism might be used against him in states such as Kentucky and West Virginia. “Does he believe in a God,” one email read. “He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.”


Needless to say, none of this played very well days before the party’s big week out, the one where all the cameras are going to be trained on hopefully happy Democrats in boater hats; Wasserman Schultz announced Sunday that she would step down as chairwoman after the convention. According to Politico, former Al Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile will run the day-to-day operations of the committee through the election. And as if this story couldn’t get any more topsy-turvy, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told CNN’s Jake Tapper that his camp strongly suspected that the email leaks were the work of the Russian government, hoping to help Donald Trump in his bid for the presidency.

In other big news that doesn’t involve the misuse of email and prominent office, Clinton finally announced her vice-presidential pick late last week, going with Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, a nice, smiley guy from the Midwest. Sound familiar? Yeah. Donald Trump picked Mike Pence, the smiley governor of Indiana, as his constitutional second. It seems that in light of their wildly unpopular nominees, both political parties thought the American voter would be best soothed by a non-threatening but competent-seeming white guy, the sort of fella who would coach your kid’s peewee football team to a championship with aplomb.

Clinton may be hoping that Kaine’s stand-up-guy aura and mainstream Democratic ideology, and his aforementioned whiteness, will comfort other white men, whose votes Clinton would like to win.

Speaking of trying to win portions of the political middle: Everyone’s favorite I’m-too-rich-to-need-a-political-party former New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, announced that he would be endorsing Clinton in a prime-time speech at the Philadelphia convention, citing concerns about Trump as his reason for picking a side. Bloomberg would, a spokesman told The New York Times, tell the assembled about his support for Clinton “from the perspective of a business leader and an independent.” A key word there, independent; Clinton will be looking to appeal to the undecided middle during the general election, and although many folks might not, ahem, identify with billionaire Bloomberg, it can’t hurt to have a pro-business former Republican (and also former Democrat …) on one’s side. Bloomberg is slated to speak Wednesday night, the same evening that President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are on the program.

Other speakers? First lady Michelle Obama and Bernie Sanders will kick off the festivities in Monday’s prime-time slots, Bill Clinton will speak Tuesday — likely going about 45 minutes over his allotted time — and Chelsea Clinton will introduce her mother on Thursday evening.

There will be lots of political star power on display, in other words, though it remains to be seen whether the constellation of Democratic celebrity will soothe the party’s disenchanted progressive wing.

Read more:

Election Update: Is Trump Getting A Convention Bump? by Nate Silver — Polls taken during and after the Republican National Convention, which concluded Thursday in Cleveland, generally show Donald Trump continuing to gain ground on Hillary Clinton, making for a close national race. But it’s customary for candidates to receive a “bounce” in the polls after their convention. There’s not yet enough evidence to come to firm conclusions about the size of Trump’s convention bounce, but the initial data suggests that a small-to-medium bounce is more likely than a large one.

Hillary Clinton Bets She Can Beat Trump Without A Splashy VP by Harry Enten — Clinton chose Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia as her running mate on Friday, making a prototypical Clinton decision that adds a safe politician to her ticket and making the bet that she doesn’t need a splashy running mate to beat Donald Trump.

Tim Kaine Wouldn’t Do Much To Help Clinton Win The Election by Nate Silver — Clinton’s choice of Kaine as her running mate is, in some ways, a dull story. Kaine has traditional credentials. He’s not especially liberal, but he’s no Blue Dog Democrat. He’s a white guy, although he speaks good Spanish. If Mike Pence is a “generic Republican,” then Kaine is a “generic Democrat.” The difference is that Kaine, unlike Pence, comes from a swing state. If you’re going to pick someone from a swing state, is Virginia among the better options? And how much difference does the vice-presidential nominee really make in his or her home state?

FiveThirtyEight: On the ground at the Democratic National Convention

Clare Malone is a former senior political writer for FiveThirtyEight.