What to watch for in Hillary Clinton’s big speech

PHILADELPHIA — Hillary Clinton will address multiple audiences on Thursday when she takes the stage to deliver the biggest political speech of her life.

First and foremost, Clinton will be rallying her supporters on the floor of the Democratic National Convention and millions more watching from home, who have already decided to vote for her in November.

At the same time, Clinton will have a prime-time opportunity to address Bernie Sanders loyalists who remain bitterly disappointed by the outcome of the primaries.

And a third group of voters will also be watching: conservatives and independents who are wary of Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, and might be willing to consider crossing party lines to stop Trump from winning the presidency.

In short, Clinton will face pressure to be many things to many people, all while finding a way to acknowledge her trust issues with voters — and her place in U.S. history as the first woman to lead a Democratic or Republican presidential ticket.

It’s a difficult task, one that the Clinton campaign has been preparing for since she clinched the Democratic nomination last month. Here’s a guide to the things PBS NewsHour will be watching for in Clinton’s acceptance speech on Thursday night.

Reaching out to Sanders supporters

In his convention speech on Wednesday, President Obama praised Sanders voters for their energy and enthusiasm, but urged them to put their differences with Clinton aside to support her in the general election.

On Thursday night, Clinton will likely deliver a similar message to the millions of Democrats and independents who did not back her in the primaries. But unlike Obama, she will need to provide specific reasons why Sanders backers should get behind her campaign.

Clinton has already adopted some of Sanders’ policy proposals, including a plan to make public college tuition free for families earning up to $125,000 a year. Look for Clinton, whose speeches are laced with policy details, to give liberals a concrete list of policies to rally around.

Trust me

Clinton has a trust problem with voters. Poll after poll this year has shown that voters do not find her trustworthy. Clinton understands this fact, and she’s
even addressed it on the campaign trail.

In her speech, Clinton will need to find a creative way to tackle this issue. But critics who are hoping she speaks about Benghazi and her private email server will likely be disappointed; there is little upside for Clinton to dwell on her biggest weaknesses with voters at a moment like this.

Going after Trump

In recent months Clinton has stepped up her attacks against Trump, after largely ignoring him early in the primaries. On Thursday night, in front of a national television audience, Clinton will get her chance to respond to the charges Trump and other Republicans leveled at her in Cleveland last week.

But Democrats — from Obama and former President Bill Clinton on down — have spent the past three days hammering away at Trump’s personality and business record. At this point there is nothing new, really, that Clinton can say about Trump’s policy, rhetoric, or career as a real estate developer and television reality star that hasn’t been said already.

The challenge for her will be restating the anti-Trump argument in a fresh way that energizes Democrats and doesn’t alienate Republicans. Pulling this off would be a big win for the Clinton campaign.

Courting Republicans

Clinton would love to win over Republicans and independents who don’t like Trump. Her speech on Thursday is a perfect opportunity to explain why they should vote for her.

But courting Republicans will be a challenge for Clinton, who risks angering the same Sanders supporters who think she has moved too far to the center. It’ll be interesting to see if she makes a direct appeal to conservatives and undecided voters, or offers them a coded message to vote against Trump.