PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A glass ceiling shattered at the Democratic National Convention as Hillary Clinton ascended to the presidential nomination with Tuesday’s roll call of the states, making her the first woman to lead a major party into a White House race.
Clinton’s campaign hoped to use the history-making moment to bolster the candidate’s popularity — mindful that while many voters are happy to be nominating a woman, they’re not wild about this particular woman candidate. Former President Bill Clinton and other speakers were set to offer prime-time testimonials to her career highlights and advocacy, hoping to soften her image and resistance to her bid.
But as history is being made, hostility is being heard, too. Bernie Sanders’ primary challenge has unleashed vitriol toward the party establishment that Sanders himself has been unable to rein in. His supporters spent much of Monday protesting his treatment by the party, even booing Clinton’s name.
What was expected to be a tightly orchestrated convention, run with all the professionalism and experience that were lacking at Trump’s often-chaotic affair in Ohio, instead showed its rough edges in the early going, starting with chants of “Bernie” during the opening invocation and boos at numerous mentions of Clinton’s name.
First lady Michelle Obama gave a heartfelt endorsement of the candidate who engaged her husband in a fierce struggle for the nomination in 2008. “I trust Hillary to lead this country,” she said in a speech that provided a parent’s-eye view of the White House and its power.
Liberal favorite Elizabeth Warren, senator from Massachusetts, and Sanders himself also gave the party something to cheer about Monday night.
While Mrs. Obama has often avoided overt politics, her frustration with Trump’s rise was evident. Without naming him, she warned that the White House couldn’t be in the hands of someone with “a thin skin or a tendency to lash out” or someone who tells voters the country can be great again. “This right now, is the greatest country on earth,” she said.
Sanders took the stage to a sustained roar and shouts of “We love you, Bernie.” Some of his supporters were in tears.
While asserting “our revolution continues,” the Vermont senator implored his restive followers to get behind Clinton. On issues of poverty, immigration, environmental protection and more, he said, Clinton’s election counts. “If you don’t believe that this election is important,” he said, “take a moment to think about the Supreme Court justices that Donald Trump would nominate.”
Some delegates said the messages did the trick.
“As the night went on, we saw a party grow stronger,” South Carolina delegate Boyd Brown said after the first day speeches.
Where Monday’s opening night lineup showcased diversity — with black, Hispanic, gay and disabled speakers — Tuesday’s program will undoubtedly play up Clinton’s historical milestone and make an overt appeal to women voters who see it as long overdue.
Trump seemed to acknowledge Clinton’s edge with female voters.
“Fifty percent of our country is men, where I’m doing very, very well,” he began in remarks Monday night in North Carolina. “That’s the good news. Let me give you the bad news: The women. I don’t know what’s going on with the women here. But I think, I think I’m doing well with the women.”
Clinton was firmly on track to write the next chapter of a story that left off in 2008, when she conceded the Democratic presidential race to Barack Obama in a speech that lamented “we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time,” but added proudly, “it’s got about 18 million cracks in it,” a tally of her primary votes.
The roll call, when each state announces its delegate totals from the primary season, will affirm a nomination Clinton locked up weeks ago. One question of the day was whether Sanders would press for a count by all the states, as his delegates want, or interrupt the process to ask that her nomination be approved by acclamation. That’s what Clinton did on Obama’s behalf in 2008 to indicate their rivalry was truly over.
Nomination sealed, the Clinton campaign planned to turn to a Day 2 program dubbed “Fights of Her Life,” highlighting her advocacy for children, health care and Sept. 11 recovery efforts, the campaign said.
The speakers also will include the so-called “mothers of the movement” — the mothers of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, black men whose deaths at the hands of police helped spawn the Black Lives Matter protests.
The moment will not be without controversy: Philadelphia’s police union complained that Clinton was showcasing killings by police without giving equal time to the families of fallen officers. Clinton’s campaign responded that two members of law enforcement also are on the convention schedule.
The convention opened in a dust-up over leaked emails showing the party’s pro-Clinton, anti-Sanders slant during the primaries, when it was supposed to be neutral. In the uproar, party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida went swiftly into exile, first giving up her position, then the convention’s opening-day gavel after being roundly booed by Sanders partisans at a meeting of her home-state delegation.
Woodward reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Matthew Daly in Philadelphia and Meg Kinnard in South Carolina contributed to this report.