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How did Hillary Clinton do? Pundits react to her speech

This commentary originally appeared on The Hill.

The Hill reached out to Democratic and nonaffiliated contributors and asked for their reactions to Hillary Clinton's acceptance speech. Here's what they had to say.

Hillary Clinton accepted the Democratic nomination to become the first woman president with a strong bid to lift Democrats with a compelling progressive vision, unite Americans with a politics that is inclusive, and offer the world a portrait of a commander in chief who brings America and our allies together behind common causes.

Brent Budowsky

She offered voters a strong and effective speech that paid great respect to former rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), his supporters and his cause and offered a powerful and dramatic contrast to GOP nominee Donald Trump who, as she said, divides our nation and does not have the temperament to command our military.

She looked great dressed in white and spoke with comfort and conviction in a speech worthy of a president and commander in chief.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Chief Deputy Majority Whip Bill Alexander (D-Ark.). He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics.

Lanny J. Davis

I believe this was not only the greatest speech Hillary Clinton has ever made, but that it may rank as one of the best acceptance speeches in memory.

Her style was relaxed, confident, yet commanding. She smiled with good humor but was serious and presidential when she needed to be.

"I believe most Americans who saw and heard Clinton deliver this speech will feel safer with her as commander in chief and see Trump — the insulter in chief — as much riskier; indeed, much more dangerous." -Lanny J. Davis

I believe she reminded Americans that, above all, she is solid, intelligent and balanced. In short, she drew the strongest contrast with Trump on the issue that might just matter most: Whom should Americans trust with the temperament and judgment to have his or her finger on the nuclear button?

I believe most Americans who saw and heard Clinton deliver this speech will feel safer with her as commander in chief and see Trump — the insulter in chief — as much riskier; indeed, much more dangerous.

Clinton also proved that, in substance, she had specific proposed solutions to the major economic and social challenges facing the nation. Again, the contrast with Trump in this regard was stark: Clinton provided specifics, from infrastructure investment, to taxation of the super wealthy, to vocational schools to train for new jobs, to relief of student debt, to affordable access to college education for all middle-class families. And so on and so on.

Compare that to Trump, whose entire acceptance speech proposed not a single specific solution to any problem except — in the words (and pompous voice) of Trump — "Trust me."

This was Clinton's moment, her fresh start; the beginning of being the change-agent her husband said last night has been her life's work. A beginning that, it is now clearer to me than ever before, will likely lead to her election as America's first female president.

Davis is co-founder of both the Washington law firm Davis Goldberg Galper PLLC and Trident DMG, a strategic media firm specializing in crisis management. He served as special counsel to President Clinton in 1996-98 and is a regular columnist for The Hill newspaper. He has been a friend of Hillary Clinton since they were students at Yale Law School together in 1969-70.

Former Rep. Bill Owens (D-N.Y.)

Chelsea Clinton's warm-up was up close and personal and a great start. The short film she introduced continued the theme of describing Hillary Clinton the daughter, mother and wife.

Now for the main event: Hillary Clinton appeared in white, in contrast to the dark knight of last week. The play on hope, and the references to the "man from Hope" — her husband — and the man of hope — President Obama — started her off on an uplifting note. Praise of Sanders and his followers continued the positive message.

She turned to words describing compromise, courage and working together. The idea that we need not be afraid — originating with President Franklin Roosevelt — and can build a better future rang true with the attendees and those of us watching on TV. We are not weak nor lacking in strength and we must all create opportunity and strength while we move the roadblocks out of the way together.

In the second phase of her speech, she returned to the idea of helping one another, supplying detail and passion. Little time was spent on wonkish discussion as she kept it personal and focused on people.

As a grandfather of two granddaughters, the image of beaming little girls in the audience was deeply moving. As Clinton said, the more opportunity you create, the more opportunity we all have.

We all know Clinton is incredibly qualified and tonight, the window opened to her. The "love trumps hate" line was a truly enjoyable joust with the dark knight and my favorite (closely followed by "70-odd minutes").

Owens is a former member of Congress representing New York's 21st District and a partner in the firm of Stafford, Owens, Piller, Murnane, Kelleher & Trombley, PLLC in Plattsburgh, N.Y.

Mark Plotkin

You remember the exchange in the 2008 debate when then-Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) was running against then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.). Obama felt the need to put her down, and in a particularly disdainful way, he said, famously, "You're likable enough, Hillary." I've always thought that was small and petty of Obama and it was neither fair nor accurate. But Clinton's public perception has always been that she is not warm and is only a policy wonk.

I first met her in the fall of 1991 when her husband came to D.C.'s Jefferson Junior High School to tape a campaign commercial. She literally bounded up to me and introduced herself. She could not have been more informal or charming. Since then, every time I have seen her, she has been consistently friendly and open to conversation. (Maybe it's our shared Chicago upbringing.)

I bring this all up because the purpose of this speech was to let you into who the real Hillary Clinton is. I believe she made people see her in a different and better way. Beyond all the public policy prescriptions, she had to show her personal side. When she talked about her Methodist faith — "Do all the good you can" — she seemed to shine.

I thought she was at her very best when she quoted her mother: "No one gets through life alone." And also when she spoke about her experience with disabled children, and the time she wonderfully said, "When there are no ceilings, the sky is the limit," it touched me and I am sure many others.

She reached out to the Sanders people with praise, letting them know she heard their concerns. That was crucial.

By the way, we also found out her personal four battleground states: Colorado, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin (where Trump should manufacture his products, instead of abroad).

Clinton tried to tell her story of America and compared it to her opponent's. She revealed herself in a highly attractive way and you believed her when she proclaimed, "You have to keep working to make things better."

The speech appealed to the best in all of us. That's the way she believes she can win.

Plotkin is a political analyst, a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a columnist for The Georgetowner. This convention was the 12th Democratic convention he has attended.

Ross Rosenfeld

Hillary Clinton isn't the communicator her husband is — after all, Bill could talk a fish out of water. She doesn't possess the poetic talents of a President Obama or the brilliant colloquial abilities of a Reagan. She didn't give the best speech of the Democratic convention — that honor may go to New Jersey's Sen. Cory Booker.

But Hillary Clinton handled herself Thursday night with skill and grace, methodically laying out her beliefs and her vision for America while simultaneously picking apart GOP nominee Donald Trump.

In contrast to Trump, Clinton emphasized unity, using the word "together" no less than 15 times. There were numerous policy points and one big idea: amending the Constitution to achieve campaign finance reform.

She managed to attack her opponent without seeming angry or bitter, striking with a velvet glove.

Clinton is often criticized for being inauthentic and too coordinated. But, as she showed on Thursday night, perhaps someone who plans excessively and sees to every last detail is what we need, rather than an opportunist whose thoughts can be summed up in 140 characters or less.

Rosenfeld is an educator and historian who has done work for Scribner, Macmillan and Newsweek.

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