Part of our job as people who comment on elections is to discuss ad nauseam what sort of impact events will have on the political landscape right now. I mean, it makes sense; as human beings, we live in the moment and are constantly searching for ways to achieve better understanding of the world around us as it exists right now; the world as it might exist 6 months from now is of necessity a less certain thing and we’ve learned to take predictions about it with a grain of salt.
In that sense, I think the CNN poll is basically right that Hillary has won the battle of the “right now” moment of how the respective candidates’ speeches were received. Of course, one problem (for Hillary) is that no one is voting right now, and no voting will occur at all for over three months. The relevant question, then, is which candidate’s speech will generate a better long-term impression that has at least some chance to last until November.
On the merits, I don’t think either speech was especially memorable in the long term, and neither had a memorable line that is likely to have a shelf life of even three months – although “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man you can trust with nuclear codes” was probably the closest either of them came to one. Thus, come November, voters will probably be left with vague emotional impressions that were created by the events.
I think that is ultimately bad news for Trump, even though I think he has currently taken the emotional temperature of the nation better than the Democrats in general did during the convention. However, just because Trump is right that the country is angry and dissatisfied does not mean, in the long term, that an angry, dissatisfied speech will leave a better long-term emotional resonance in the mind of voters. And I think Hillary Clinton made a smart choice to eschew the panglossian rhetoric of the other Democrats and squarely acknowledge the mood of the country, while still sounding an optimistic note: “We are clear eyed about the challenges that face this country, but we are not afraid.”
I suspect, in the long run, that as the country gains distance from Hillary Clinton’s actual delivery of her speech (which was, stylistically, barely scraping “okay”) the gulf between perceptions of Clinton’s speech and Trump’s will only widen. But then, I’ve bet optimistically on the American public repeatedly throughout this election and I’m about to go broke as a result.