While we are still waiting for Hillary to arrive—the crowd, standing, crammed behind metal barricades, the mute, expectant stage topped by a wood lectern, “Shake It Off” playing over the speakers—the backdrop suddenly comes crashing down. A support on the right side gives way and pulls the black curtain with it, plummeting onto the stage and taking down the Wisconsin and American flags. People laugh and raise their phones to take pictures.
Within an hour, America Rising, one of several PACs dedicated to destroying Hillary, has posted the 12-second video of the curtain crash on YouTube, titled “The Clinton Campaign Is Literally Collapsing.” A few days later, it has been viewed more than 100,000 times. That’s how badly people want to see Hillary fail. At the moment, she is giving them plenty to work with.
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Hillary is here at last. She strides confidently onto the stage and hugs Martha Love, the Democratic National Committee member who gave the last of several introductions. Hillary is a fingertips hugger, not a full-body hugger: polite, careful, affectionate without being forward. “Wow,” she says into the microphone, “I am thrilled to be here!”
Hillary’s speech is 27 minutes and 23 seconds long. She’s on today, hitting all her marks. She deftly name-drops locals pols—praising the local Democrats; criticizing the Republican governor, Scott Walker, who is running for president. (“Boooo,” the crowd groans when she mentions him.)
There is Empathy: “I’ve been fighting for the underdog my entire life. I’ve even been the underdog a time or two.”
There are Issues: affordable college, affordable child care, the minimum wage, reproductive rights, gun control, climate change.
There are Jokes: The Republicans “are all Trump without the pizzazz or the hair!”
There is Spontaneity Mixed With Humor, when the crowd boos trickle-down economics: “This is a very smart group of young people!”
There are a lot of card-playing metaphors, for some reason: On the economy, she says, “The deck is stacked for those at the top. We need to reshuffle that deck.” On women’s issues, she says, “Republicans often say, ‘There she goes again, playing the gender card.’ Well, deal me in. I am ready to play.”
There is Optimism Tempered by Realism: “We’re not yet running, economically, the way we need to and want to. But we’re making progress. But we have a long way to go.”
There is the Humble Acknowledgment That This Campaign Is No Cakewalk (not that she’s complaining!): “I know this is going to be a really hard-fought election. That’s as it should be. There’s so much at stake.”
There is Audience Participation: “How many of you have student debt?” (A lot of hands go up. Hillary nods sagely.)
There is an Emotional Moment: “As a mother and as a grandmother, my heart breaks for the family of Dontre Hamilton, whose mother is here today … The ability of black mothers to raise their children in safety is a women’s issue. It’s an American issue.”