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July 28, 2016

Hillary Clinton cameo shifts DNC focus to her acceptance speech

Clinton's embrace of Barack Obama leaves delegates in state of reflection and anticipation

Hillary Clinton made a surprise appearance at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night, joining President Barack Obama on stage just moments after he concluded a speech singing her praises.

Naturally, the crowd inside the Wells Fargo Center erupted as the pair embraced, a sentimental image that left delegates buzzing in both appreciation of Obama's presidency and anticipation of Clinton's historic acceptance speech Thursday night.

"I didn't know they were going to do that," Philadelphia City Councilman Bill Greenlee said. "It used to be the candidate didn't come out until the next night."

Obama roused the crowd by declaring that no man or woman has ever been more qualified than Clinton is to be president. He recapped the triumphs of his own presidency before highlighting Clinton's capability to complete the work he left unfinished.

"The signs that came up at the end saying 'thank you' were very appropriate," Greenlee said. "We have a lot to thank him for."

But Clinton's cameo quickly pushed the focus toward the convention's culminating moment – her coronation as the first woman to accept a major party's presidential nomination.

"I won't be surprised to hear her come out with strength and grace," said Janine Boyd, an Ohio state representative from the Cleveland area. Clinton's message has been that "even if we don't agree on everything, I will listen and provide context and understanding around the decisions I make as a leader."

To see Clinton standing with Obama — their arms raised high together — left Boyd in tears.

"When it comes down to it, these two people are two of the best things that have ever happened to us as a country and the world," Boyd said.

Despite her vast experience, Clinton has been cast by her opponents as untrustworthy. She has battled a perception that everyone knows who she is, but no one knows who she is.

Throughout the convention, various keynote speakers — from Michelle Obama on Monday to Joe Biden on Wednesday — have sought to paint a more complete image of Clinton. Perhaps none did so as poignantly as Bill Clinton on Tuesday, when he detailed the way the couple fell in love.

Now, all eyes fall on Hillary Clinton herself.

"There's still people who don't know her," Greenlee said. "She has to show this is a person who has been working for people since she was a kid."

Delegates also are eager to hear Clinton lay out her vision for moving the United States forward during a time of various uncertainties.

Bruce Poole, the chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party, said he particularly wants to hear her economic and foreign policy goals.

"I hope she addresses all this," Poole said. "The last time a Clinton was in office, the economy was unbelievable."

Tim Jerman, a superdelegate from Vermont who supported Bernie Sanders, said he wants to hear specific policy goals, but also expects Clinton to recount her myriad qualifications and experiences.

As Jerman prepared to leave the Wells Fargo Center Wednesday night, he reflected on the unexpected moment Clinton and Obama shared with thousands of delegates.

"It was very exciting – a big reaction from the crowd," Jerman said. "A nice precursor for tomorrow."