Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton raced to the center—or “pivoted” in the proper political vernacular—during their speeches on Tuesday night at the close of the primary season. But both made overt appeals to the disaffected supporters of their rivals’ vanquished opponents.
“To all of those Bernie Sanders voters who have been left out in the cold by a rigged system of superdelegates, we welcome you with open arms,” Trump said during his unusually-scripted remarks from his golf club in Westchester, New York. Clinton was more subtle, but only a bit. Acknowledging the “hard-fought, deeply-felt” primary campaign, she sought support not only from those who voted for Sanders but also from people who backed “one of the Republicans.”
“The election is not,” she said later in the speech, “about the same old fights between Democrats and Republicans. This election is different. It really is about who we are as a nation. It’s about millions of Americans coming together to say: We are better than this. We won’t let this happen in America.
“And if you agree,” Clinton continued, “whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, or independent, I hope you’ll join us.”
Reaching across party lines is a traditional move at the start of the general election. Candidates no longer have to worry (as much) about alienating partisans in their own party once they’ve secured the nomination, and though voters in the political middle have seemingly been ignored as parties increasingly cater to their bases, they can still play an important role in swing states. In 2008 and 2012, the Obama campaign touted the support of “Republicans for Obama,” and after the contentious Clinton-Obama primary eight years ago, John McCain aggressively sought to woo so-called P.U.M.A. (for Party Unity My Ass) Clinton supporters. The most prominent of these was Lynn Forester de Rothschild, a Clinton fund-raiser who very publicly defected to McCain in 2008 before supporting Jon Huntsman in 2012.