This is the night Hillary Clinton has been waiting for her entire life. This is the night where she has her latest and best chance to make her case to undecided voters, clarify her vision for America, and cut into her massively high unfavorable ratings. Finally, the attention at the Democratic convention and in the news media will be on her, her message, and not just endorsements and speeches from powerful allies like Mike Bloomberg and President Barack Obama.
Good luck with that.
We already know who's going to dominate the headlines Friday morning in the end. And he happens to be Clinton's opponent. Let's justify that conclusion by reviewing the extremely recent evidence:
Donald Trump stole the headlines away from the Democrats and their convention Wednesday by stirring up controversies over Clinton's emails and the Russians. Thursday morning, even after four barn burner speeches by Mike Bloomberg, Joe Biden, Tim Kaine, and finally President Barack Obama, the most-talked about story in the news and social media is still Donald Trump's calls for the Russians to hand over the former Secretary of State's deleted emails. Maintaining the lion's share of media attention even in the wake of a stirring speech by the President of the United States is no easy task. But Trump, and his apparently still clueless and unintentional allies in the media, pulled it off.
Now, the "challenge" is to do the same to a mere Democratic presidential nominee with high unfavorable ratings, who doesn't possess the same speaking skills as President Obama, Vice President Biden, or even her husband. Even if only the established news media still controlled the main political narrative in this country, beating back Clinton's potential attention-grabbing chances wouldn't be impossible for Trump. But with social media's powerful influence thrown into the mix, he won't have to try very hard at all.
He proved he's the master of the media cycle many times before, but Wednesday's coup ended all arguments on that score. Even if the talk about the Russian email hacking story dies down by Friday, Trump will have a few rallies and his Twitter account at the ready to stir something else up if he wants. And we know the news media will be eager to cover it.
But the real question is whether all this media attention is good for Trump's election chances. Many news and political veterans are still expecting his seemingly reckless comments to bring him down. And they are not alone. Clearly, the top strategists in the Clinton campaign are okay with Trump stealing the attention during this campaign because they too are sure it will backfire on him any day now.
But they're wrong. Not because they don't understand Trump, but because they don't understand his supporters. This specific point is essential. Because the inability to understand Trump supporters will not only cost Clinton and the Democrats the White House, it could cost the established news media whatever influence it still has over public opinion.