Harmonizing.

Photographer: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Democrats Actually Did Get Stronger Together

Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the executive editor of Bloomberg News, before which he was a reporter, bureau chief and executive Washington editor at the Wall Street Journal.
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Democrats left their presidential nominating convention in Philadelphia Thursday night remarkably unified given the tensions at the start of the week, in sharp contrast to the Republicans a week earlier.

If history is any guide, the more unified party has an advantage in the autumn election. This is a year, however, that has defied a lot of history.

The coming together was evident on the convention floor, even in delegations from California, Colorado, Wisconsin and Virginia that started off deeply split.

By Wednesday night, most of the Bernie Sanders delegates from Wisconsin, where the Vermont senator won a decisive primary victory, were seated next to supporters of the nominee, Hillary Clinton. "We will have some hiccups but everyone will be there by November," predicted David Bowen, a Sanders backer who is vice chair of the party and a state legislator.

Delegates from Virginia, a Clinton stronghold with a slice of Sanders support, found common ground backing their state's senator and former governor, Tim Kaine, the vice presidential nominee. A Sanders supporter, Koran Saines, noted the importance of Loudoun County, a growing Washington exurb. It used to be Republican territory -- George W. Bush carried it by 12 percentage points in 2004 -- but Obama carried it twice. Saines, a district supervisor in Loudoun County, said the new-found harmony between the two camps gives him confidence in Clinton's chances in the fall. "As Loudoun County goes so goes Virginia," he said.

There were holdouts in some delegations, including California's. But on Wednesday night all of that delegation heartily cheered Governor Jerry Brown when he embraced Clinton, a one-time foe.

Colorado was tougher, with more than a handful of Sanders backers insisting that they'd never support Clinton. But Governor John Hickenlooper, in a Bloomberg Politics breakfast on Thursday, predicted that they would iron things out. "As of today I feel very confident that despite the hard feelings with the Senator's supporters, most of them are very clear that they don't want to see Donald Trump anywhere near the White House," Hickenlooper said.

Shallow Bench

The Democrats are top heavy. The convention performance of heavyweights like President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton far outshined that of the Republican headliners. (Neither of the two living former Republican ex-presidents even attended the GOP national convention in Cleveland.) Sanders, Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts also stood out, and Michelle Obama, the first lady, gave the best speech of either convention.

At the Republican convention, the headliners were mostly has-beens or unpopular politicians -- think of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Exceptions included House Speaker Paul Ryan, whose differences with Trump were well advertised, and Senator Ted Cruz, who refused even to endorse the nominee.

But Democrats showcased few potential stars in their 30s or 40s. The exceptions were New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, who is 47, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, 45, and U.S. Representative Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts, 35.

Of some solace to Democrats is that many of the most talented young Republicans didn't show up in Cleveland. Not that it's always easy to spot a rising star. At the 2000 Democratic convention in Los Angeles, an obscure Illinois legislator was barely able to rent a car, didn't have a floor credential and was ignored by the press and politicians. That was Barack Obama.

Rewriting History

It wasn't Hillarycare. There was a lot of praise in Philadelphia for Clinton's contributions to children's causes. One set of kudos, though, was more urban legend than history. It concerned the enactment of the 1997 State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) after Congress wouldn't pass Clinton's health-care reform plan in 1994.

"Hillary immediately went to work on solving the problems the bill sought to address, one-by-one," Bill Clinton declared. Her "most important goal," he said, was enactment of the children's health insurance plan, which he suggested she achieved along with "a lot of other things in that bill."

That's revisionism. Actually, the Clinton White House initially opposed the bipartisan SCHIP measure for budgetary reasons after it was pushed by Senators Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Orrin Hatch of Utah.

It was Kennedy, not Clinton, who crafted the bill patterned after a Massachusetts program. He helped get Hatch, a Republican with whom he had a good relationship, to back the bill in part by helping his Utah colleague get religious songs he had written recorded on a CD. The First Lady played no role in securing Republican co-sponsorship.

Kennedy praised Clinton's subsequent support, but said she did not play a pivotal role.

City of What?

Some delegates were stunned by booing coming from unhappy Sanders backers in Philadelphia. On the opening Monday, Sanders supporters were booing everything in sight both on and off the convention floor. The even booed Sanders.

That was tame stuff to Philadelphians. This is city where football fans threw snowballs at Santa Claus during an Eagles game. When a couple got married at halftime during another game, appearing on the big screen, the fans barked like dogs. By some accounts, Philadelphia Phillies fans booed a successful hand-transplant patient when he threw out a ceremonial opening pitch.

A few jeers at politicians? Big deal!

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Albert R. Hunt at ahunt1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Jonathan Landman at jlandman4@bloomberg.net