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July 25, 2016

Pennsylvania, New Jersey delegates seek unity, strong message as DNC gets underway

Democrats need powerful narrative for general election campaign, delegates say

Bill Caruso likens the Democratic presidential primary as a friendly athletic contest.

"You play hard and when the whistle blows at the end, whoever wins, wins," said Caruso, a New Jersey delegate who backed Bernie Sanders over the presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton. "You shake hands and get back together. I think that's the process we're in now."

The Democratic National Convention kicked off Monday in Philadelphia with Clinton staffers and supporters stressing the importance of uniting behind the presumptive nominee. But not everyone is in full support of Clinton, as the massive Sanders demonstrations outside the Wells Fargo Center indicated.

Caruso was among a number of Pennsylvania and New Jersey delegates hoping to see a more united party by the time Clinton formally accepts the party nomination Thursday night.

"Remember, Bernie Sanders is not the head of a movement — he's the head of many movements," Caruso said. "He's been able to bring together many movements. It's going to take some time. There may be some folks who never decide to come back over. We've got to find out a way to electrify a majority of voters this fall to come over to our side and join with us."

The Democrats formally adopted a platform that includes many of the liberal ideals championed by Sanders during a vigorous campaign that captured the spirits of many Millennials and liberal voters. That, along with Sanders' endorsement of Clinton, could mark a significant step toward bridging the gap.

"It's clearly the most progressive platform in party history," said U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, who is also a Pennsylvania delegate. "I think it's a very fair combination of what Bernie has been fighting for and what Hillary Clinton stands for.

"I always maintained that in the grand scheme of things they weren't that far apart," he added. "The fact that we were able to forge a platform that got an overwhelming majority of votes, I think that reflects it."

Sanders is among a series of keynote speakers expected to stress the importance of adopting economic policies that work for all Americans. He will be joined Monday night by first lady Michelle Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a liberal many Sanders supporters favored as a possible vice presidential nominee.

Yet, it will take more than just a united party to beat Donald Trump in the general election, Caruso warned. The Democrats also need to articulate a powerful message.

"Donald Trump has been able to divide the country through his message, but he's been able to articulate a message that some are actually inspired by and it resonates with," Caruso said. "We have to figure out what ours is, unless we're going to lose in the fall. The message can't just be 'Be with her or else he's going to win.' It's got to be better than that."

The convention offers the Clinton campaign an opportunity to showcase her varied experiences and qualifications. But David Landau, a Pennsylvania delegate, said it presents her the stage to tell her story and shift the narrative surrounding her.

"We've heard a lot of bad things about her, but they need to get to know her better I think the convention is the first preview of that," said Landau, the leader of the Delaware County Democratic Party. "Because she's not this devil incarnate that Republicans are painting her to be."