Hillary Clinton takes centre-stage on final day of Democratic Party Convention

Pennsylvania, US Updated: Jul 29, 2016, 02:43 AM(IST)

The four-day Democratic convention in Philadelphia has been a parade of party heavyweights stressing Clinton is uniquely qualified to be commander-in-chief. Photograph:( AFP )

Americans face a "moment of reckoning" in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton will tell voters on Thursday as she accepts the Democratic presidential nomination and highlights efforts to improve economic opportunities across the board.

The former secretary of state faces her biggest test on the national stage as she urges voters to embrace four more years of a Democratic White House rather than elect Republican billionaire Donald Trump.

It is the centre-stage opportunity she came so close to seizing eight years ago during her first White House campaign, only to be defeated in her party's primary race by Barack Obama.

In a primetime address, Clinton will lay out plans to improve the nation's economy, stressing that "my primary mission as president will be to create more opportunity and more good jobs with rising wages".

Her effort will focus particularly on places "that for too long have been left out and left behind, from our inner cities to our small towns, Indian Country to Coal Country", she will say, according to speech excerpts released by the campaign.

Clinton, 68, made history this week when she became the first female presidential nominee of a major US party. 

The four-day Democratic convention in Philadelphia has been a parade of party heavyweights, and some independents who have all stressed that the former first lady and US senator is uniquely qualified to be commander-in-chief.

Obama led the charge on Wednesday, stirringly hailing Clinton as his political heir.

Clinton will speak of the strains that have been placed on US society during the toxic year-long campaign that has featured heated rhetoric from Trump and other candidates.

"Powerful forces are threatening to pull us apart. Bonds of trust and respect are fraying," Clinton will say.

"We are clear-eyed about what our country is up against. But we are not afraid," Clinton will add. "We will rise to the challenge, just as we always have." Clinton faces a major trust deficit among a US public that has followed every Clintonian turn of the past quarter century.
Rocked by an email scandal that refuses to die, she is now about as unpopular with voters as her Republican rival.

But her remarks signal a plan to focus attention on pockets of down-and-out communities which have felt ignored by the slow and erratic economic recovery.

After her speech, Clinton and running mate Tim Kaine will seek to carry her momentum straight onto the campaign trail Friday, taking a three-day bus tour into Rust Belt communities in swing states Pennsylvania and Ohio.

With Trump casting himself as an outsider, a political neophyte committed to upending the Washington establishment, Clinton faces the difficult task of appearing as the steady hand at the tiller even while promising to be a catalyst for change.

"It's the most personal moment of the campaign, talking to a big audience about what she wants to do for the future," Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta said on a Facebook live stream.The most rousing Clinton sales pitch of the week came from Obama himself.

"I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman, not me, not Bill (Clinton), nobody more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America," Obama thundered before a cheering crowd.

"No matter how daunting the odds, no matter how much people try to knock her down, she never, ever quits."

Trump seemed to drop an unexpected gift in Clinton's lap Wednesday when he urged Russia to hack Clinton's emails.

The 70-year-old real estate mogul sought to douse the outcry on Thursday by saying he was "being sarcastic", but the call for cyber espionage against the United States made even Republicans cringe.

Doug Elmets, a Republican who worked in president Ronald Reagan's White House, brought the Democratic crowd to its feet when he implored fellow Republicans to vote for Clinton.

"I knew Ronald Reagan. I worked for Ronald Reagan. Donald Trump, you are no Ronald Reagan," Elmets said.

"Trump is a petulant, dangerously unbalanced reality star who will coddle tyrants and alienate allies." While Clinton must play to the party's base and seek to soothe bruised Bernie Sanders supporters, some of whom wore fluorescent green shirts Thursday inside the arena as a subtle form of protest, a key mission is to appeal to crossover voters and independents wary of Trump.

"Donald Trump is making a lot of really big promises, and some people find those attractive," said Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook. 

"What Hillary is going to do tonight, what we've done at this convention is make sure that people know the facts."

He acknowledged that Clinton, who will be introduced by daughter Chelsea, also knows "she needs to earn the voters' trust".

Clinton has never been as telegenic and personable a politician as her husband or Obama, whose oratorical skills were on full display on Tuesday and Wednesday.

She will balance her policy strengths with an attempt to connect with Americans watching from their living rooms as she faces a nation divided by intense campaign rhetoric, spikes in race-related gun violence, and heightened fear brought about by a spate of terror attacks around the world.

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