How does a sitting president pull off a speech at a convention where his party, its nominee, and many of its constituents oppose his legacy project? Barack Obama will have the chance to square that circle on Wednesday night as the DNC's keynote speaker at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Eight years after winning his own victory against Hillary Clinton, Obama takes stage to make the case for this year's Democratic nominee. His job, like most incumbents popular in their own party, will be to draw a line of continuity between himself and Clinton.
But Obama faces one major obstacle: Clinton, her Republican challenger Donald Trump, and many Democrats vocally oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), a massive free trade deal that was one of the signature projects of the president's second term.
"We have got to make sure TPP does not get to the floor of the Congress in the lame duck session," Senator Bernie Sanders thundered on Tuesday, on the very same stage Obama will take tonight. Sanders and others say that the deal pits Americans against workers in low-wage countries, sapping what's left of industrial jobs and the basis of the middle and working classes.
Obama has been fending off this criticism for months. "The prescription of withdrawing from trade deals and focusing solely on your local market, that's the wrong medicine," he said last month. "You are right to be concerned about the trends, but what you're prescribing will not work."
So just as Bill Clinton's speech on Tuesday largely avoided any discussion of his legacy on policy — where divisions within the party are deep — Obama will likely focus on Clinton's personal character, her experience, her historical role as the first female nominee, and their time together in his administration, when Clinton served as secretary of state.
"I don't think there's ever been so qualified to hold this office," he said in his video in June rolling out an endorsement. "She's got the courage, the compassion and the heart to get the job done."
As for going negative on her rival: Obama hasn't hesitated to attack Trump so far, moving from initial veiled critiques to calling him out by name last week for the mogul's remarks on NATO.
With Trump's history "birtherism" and questioning Obama's own American citizenship, the president may not mind squeezing in a few minutes on the GOP nominee.
Other speakers on Wednesday will include Vice President Joe Biden, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, California Governor Jerry Brown, and Jesse Jackson.
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