Democratic National Convention 2016: 5 Storylines to Watch this Week

If you thought last week's RNC was wild, Philadelphia is ready to top it.

July 25, 2016, 8:02 AM

— -- The chaos of Cleveland has given way to quiet celebration in the City of Brotherly Love … oh, wait, scrap that script.

If you thought last week's Republican National Convention was wild, Philadelphia is ready to prove it can be topped. Already a party chairman is on her way out, a heat wave has tempers boiling, and protesters who sat out a trip to the Midwest appear to have found reasons to hit Philly instead. Plus, Bernie Sanders is technically still a candidate for president.

Here are five storylines to watch this week at the Democratic National Convention:


It’s sweltering in Philadelphia, to say nothing of the hot air and hotter passions that will flourish inside the Wells Fargo Center. But one of the main missions of the DNC will be to project an optimistic tone for the new Clinton-Kaine ticket. Hillary Clinton wants to soften perceptions of her, with stories of her biography and references to the historical significance of her candidacy. She’ll also lean on an all-star array of speakers -- Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders -- and entertainment A-listers to make the case for her. Her challenge will be to turn government service and experience into a positive in this ultimate year of the outsider. Clinton wants to project an optimistic tone, in contrast to the dark portrait of the current state of affairs painted by the Trump convention.


The man with the resume you can’t make up now has a chance to introduce himself to a party in need of new names. Tim Kaine brings his smile and his Spanish-language chops to the race, with Clinton making a vice-presidential pick designed to project both confidence and competence. Kaine needs to win over skeptical voices in the party’s progressive wing, including a smattering of delegates who say they want a different VP candidate entirely. Kaine, of course, will be on the ticket. But even a primo speaking slot Wednesday night won’t guarantee that he’ll shine among the constellation of Democratic stars. For all the jobs he’s held and policy fights he’s waged, the words he speaks en español may be the most important he utters this week.


There’s nothing like starting a national convention with the party chair heading out the door. Wikileaks’ release of internal Democratic National Committee emails confirmed liberals’ worst suspicions about a DNC that some felt had its thumb on the scales for Clinton over Sanders. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s announced resignation will minimize the fallout. But the fact that it’s not taking effect until after the convention ends will mean she’ll continue to be a lightning rod for anger at the party establishment. Even brief appearances are all-but certain to be met by boos among convention delegates, ensuring a distracting storyline in the opening hours in Philadelphia. Broader issues the emails raise about a dysfunctional party and its cheerleading for Clinton will last beyond convention week. And the Clinton campaign is blaming the Russians for the leak, implicating that Vladimir Putin is trying to help Donald Trump.


Sanders is making good on his promise to keep his fight going all the way through Philadelphia. His to-the-end campaign earned him a Monday night speech -- the same night Elizabeth Warren is speaking -- as well as the right to insist on a state-by-state roll-call vote for Clinton to clinch the nomination. Then there are Sanders’ supporters -- thousands of them both inside and outside the convention hall, not all of whom are taking orders from Sanders himself. Sanders’ words and actions will be closely scrutinized, and the Clinton campaign knows that it can only hold together the Democratic coalition with the full-throated support of progressives.


Remember that guy? The one who just had his own convention last week? Democrats do, and one theme of the Democratic convention will be to portray their vision of how the world might look under a President Donald J. Trump. Expect lots of one-liners about hair and huuuge walls. Also expect somber depictions of Trump’s America, with a diverse lineup of speakers set to voice individual concerns. Whatever you do, don’t expect Trump himself to be silent: He’ll be campaigning throughout the week, and also has Twitter ready to go.

Related Topics

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events