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Democratic National Convention 2016: What To Expect In Philadelphia


Yesterday, Hillary Clinton announced her vice presidential running mate. She chose a loyal centrist who's very much on her same page.


HILLARY CLINTON: So while Tim was taking on housing discrimination and homelessness, Donald Trump was denying apartments to people who were African-American.


CLINTON: He is still fighting those battles today.

HU: Despite Kaine's solid civil rights background, he may not be progressive enough to placate Bernie Sanders' supporters, and that could be trouble. Joining us now is NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Mara, good morning.


HU: Well, the Clinton-Kaine rally yesterday had all the bells and whistles of a vice presidential announcement, but it belied a huge crack in the party. On Friday, WikiLeaks released nearly 20,000 emails that were apparently written by Democratic National Committee staff. Mara, bring us up to speed.

LIASSON: The 20,000 emails had been hacked from the DNC, and they were released right on the eve of the convention designed to make Sanders' supporters even more angry than they might've been. They're very disappointed about the Tim Kaine pick. But some of the emails showed that DNC staffers were not being neutral between Clinton and Sanders. This is the charge that the Sanders supporters have made all along. And Sanders has had a famously terrible relationship with Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who's the chairman of the DNC. He's actually endorsed her primary opponent.

And there's been some fallout from the WikiLeaks release. Debbie Wasserman Schultz will not speak at the convention. She will gavel it open and closed. And she will leave her post as DNC chair after the convention instead of in January, when she was scheduled to leave. In a separate development, the Democratic Party Rules Committee has agreed to limit the role of superdelegates. Two-thirds of them will now be bound to the results of their state primaries and caucuses. This was a compromise.

The Sanders group - delegates obviously wanted the superdelegates to be gone altogether, but Sanders' campaign praised this as a tremendous victory. If this rule, by the way, had been in place in 2016 it wouldn't have changed the results at all. So the goal of this is to get unity. There - the disunity inside the DNC might not be as bad as the Republican Party, but there's still plenty of it. And the Democrats want to make sure there is no chaos on the floor of the convention. They want a contrast to the Republican Committee.

HU: So on this Tim Kaine choice, when Hillary Clinton announced him yesterday she called him, quote, "my kind of guy." Mara, just what kind of guy is that?

LIASSON: Well, he is a lot like Hillary Clinton. He wasn't put on the ticket for balance. He's a lot like Bill Clinton's pick of Al Gore - you know, another centrist border state baby boomer. In this case, he does double down on a lot of Hillary Clinton's attributes. He's a pragmatic policy wonk like her. He's willing to compromise for incremental progress. He's not a purist who holds out for 100 percent and gets zero, just like her. He's described himself as boring. Some people would say she's not super charismatic. He's also very well qualified like her. He's been a mayor and a governor and now a senator. He's been the chairman of the Democratic Party. And he also speaks fluent Spanish. She doesn't do that, but that's definitely an asset.

HU: What about the Republican side, Donald Trump and Mike Pence? Did their convention, which had some controversy and division - did that help or hurt them?

LIASSON: We're waiting for polls. We've had very few polls that have been taken since the Republican convention. Some of the ones that are out show he - Trump has made some progress. Maybe he is getting a little bit of a bump. But the gap had already been closing even before the Republican convention started mostly because Hillary Clinton had been hurt by the FBI director's statement that she had been extremely careless with classified information in her emails.

HU: Real quick, Mara, looking ahead to the week, what should we be paying attention to both inside and outside that convention hall in Philly?

LIASSON: Well, the big question is Democrats want to show that they are inclusive, not divisive, that they're unified, that they're optimistic, not pessimistic. But we want to see how much unity is there. Monday night is when Bernie Sanders speaks. I think he'll set the tone for his supporters. Then outside, we have to look at the protests. Cleveland was relatively calm, calmer than expected. Will there be raucous, maybe violent protests in Philadelphia? Of course, it's going to be 100 degrees almost every day. That might have an effect.

HU: That's national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Mara, thanks.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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