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Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohen on what Hillary Clinton needs to do on Thursday night

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There are lots of local Tampa Bay area elected officials who are in Philadelphia this week for the Democratic National Convention. Darden Rice, Bob Buckhorn, Janet Cruz and Harry Cohen are some of the faces who were seen on out and about on Monday.

Cohen is an alternate delegate for Hillary Clinton, and he says that while there is a strong-pro Bernie Sanders energy on the streets of Philadelphia who say they won’t vote for the presumptive presidential nominee this fall, he believes that a powerful acceptance speech on Thursday night could move hearts and minds.

The Tampa City Councilman remembers how George H.W. Bush gave a powerful speech at the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans that turned around that election. Democrat Mike Dukakis had a 17-point lead after his convention a month earlier, and Bush’s RNC seemed to change the narrative immediately.

“I think she needs to do it by talking about two things – optimism for the country, and competence in getting us there,” Cohen said early Monday afternoon inside the Marriott hotel in downtown Philadelphia.

“Donald Trump’s speech was extremely pessimistic. It was negative, it was about everything that is wrong with America, and I think she needs to talk about everything that is right with America and her vision for taking us to a better place.”

Cohen says Clinton’s level of competence is also a big selling point.

“No disrespect to the current president or George W Bush, but the fact is, we had somebody with a lot of experience in the White House for a very long time and it’s my hope with her background she can really come in and hit the ground runing, with the Congress – really get some things done and I think people will be open for that if she can convince people that the passion is there and that the commitment is there to taking us to a better place, to a more optimistic place.”

Perhaps, but it sure didn’t feel that way in the opening moments of the convention on Monday afternoon. Ohio Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, the first black woman to run the Democratic Convention (Fudge was selected to succeed Debbie Wasserman Schultz), was heckled and jeered when she complimented the Clinton-Kaine ticket – the ticket that will be nominated for president later this week.

A Clinton victory would mean a Democrat would occupy the White House for 12 years, a historian rarity in modern times (save Bush in 1988). That’s a tough order, but Cohen believes that the country – and specifically – Sanders supporters – want to maintain the progress that has occurred under Barack Obama.

“We have made tremendous progress in this country in the last eight years in health care, social policy, LGBT rights, Cuba, and the Bernie Sanders supporters don’t want to see us go backwards, they want to see us go forward on those things, so I really think that if you can frame it as a choice between going back in the other redirection or keeping the momentum moving forward, you really can appeal to people,” says Cohen.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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