And that’s ok, because it was damn good. It started with Obama recalling the speech she gave at the 2008 Democratic National Convention and achieved the same result, this time for the candidate her husband famously defeated. If Hillary Clinton struggles to connect with voters on an emotive level, then Obama may be the single most compelling anecdotal speaker in politics. And tonight, she made a case for Clinton’s presidency rooted in that same blend of personal experience and universal resonance that captured the country’s imagination eight years ago.
There was nothing novel about the pitches themselves. Obama praised Clinton’s aptitude (a “true public servant”), conviction (“Hillary knows this is much bigger than her own desires and disappointments”), and resilience (she’s “never quit on anything in her life”). But they came on their own time, and not before Obama made clear she was speaking from the perspective of a black American living—thanks to this country’s unique and exceptional capacity for self-betterment—in a “house built by slaves,” as a mother who wouldn’t trust anyone else with the responsibility for her daughters’s future, and as an endlessly scrutinized female public figure who will live to see a generation in which it is taken “for granted that a woman can be president.”
By the time Obama got around to announcing, “I’m with her,” she had conjured a real sense of who both the “I” and the “her” were. For a moment, all the sloganeering of this campaign was imbued with actual life.