US Election 2016

Hillary Clinton's quiet supporters explain why they're with her

Supporters of Hillary Clinton with capes featuring her logo Image copyright AFP

Loving Hillary Clinton has rarely been popular - when she was first lady she was widely criticised for being too liberal, for refusing to bake cookies or drop her maiden name.

Now, she's under fire for being too establishment, too untrustworthy and not progressive enough - and her hair, clothes, and lack of charisma have always been targets.

She's had peaks of high ratings - as secretary of state, her approval rating was at 65%, and she's been voted the most admired woman in the world 20 times. But as soon as she runs for office, those numbers drop.

Throughout this campaign, the media has talked about an "enthusiasm gap" for Mrs Clinton - the idea that those voting for her only do so grudgingly.

A scandal over her use of a private email account as secretary of state has further dented her popularity and heightened perceptions that she cannot be trusted.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mrs Clinton has struggled to connect with younger voters

But here in Philadelphia, there is overwhelming enthusiasm for Clinton - especially now that she has been officially declared the nominee, and her rival Bernie Sanders has asked his supporters to coalesce behind her. (Not everyone has.)

During the Democratic convention in Philadelphia this week, speakers like Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, actress Lena Dunham and President Obama spoke with passion for Mrs Clinton, punctuated by rousing cheering from the crowds.

Here, those who have always held Clinton in high esteem feel that they are finally able to celebrate out in the open - and that the rest of the country, or at least half of it - may finally be catching on.

Standing among the California delegation on Monday night of the convention - as Sanders supporters shouted loudly for their candidate of choice and booed Mrs Clinton - Robert Camacho was standing proudly in Hillary T-shirt, holding a "Hillary for President" sign.

Image caption Robert Camacho received a letter from Mrs Clinton on his wedding anniversary

Mr Camacho, was a delegate for Mrs Clinton's first run in 2008 as well, when she lost in the primary to Barack Obama. He supports her because of her qualifications, her resume, her support for gay rights and her ability to evolve on issues.

Mrs Clinton sent him and his husband a letter on their anniversary a few years ago, he said, and he will never forget it.

"How much more amazing can that get?"

The convention is designed in part to re-introduce Clinton to undecided voters and convince those who dislike her to come around, at least long enough to cast their votes in November.

But for many here, their affection for Clinton has been life-long.

Bettina Hager, of Washington, said she has loved Hillary Clinton for at least 23 years - impressive, since she's only 31. She grew up hearing her mother saying Hillary should be president instead of Bill Clinton.

"It would be impossible for me to dampen my enthusiasm for her, because I have loved her for so long," Hager said. "The fact that she's able to run for the presidency after being in the public eye for so long says a lot about her character."

But no one said love is easy. Ms Hager said sometimes she hesitates to talk about her feelings about Clinton to avoid arguments

At least once in the past few months she's had to cut off conversations with friends - usually Sanders supporters - to avoid further conflict.

"What's really frustrating as a Hillary supporter is I know why I am a Hillary supporter and it's well thought out, but I have people trying to tell me that I just don't know what I'm talking about.

"For me sometimes, I end up saying I don't want to talk about it anymore, because it's unpleasant to have people fight with you," Hager said.

Some long-time Hillary fans said misogyny against her - and her supporters - has grown worse since the 2008 campaign.

Image caption Marilyn Hafling (left) and Joan Thurmond say some the "Hillary hate" stems from misogyny

"I'm really disappointed by how many people make claims that are not substantiated against her, and the misogyny… it was bad in 2008 and it seems to have gotten worse," said Marilyn Hafling, a Democratic volunteer from St Petersburg, Florida.

"This time almost everything is negative to the point of ridiculousness."

Jonathan Oriole, an alternate delegate from Florida, said he has been supporting Mrs Clinton for years. Alongside him was Shannon Dewitt, who wore a hat covered in pro-Hillary and pro-Democrat pins.

Both men are working with LGBT and Latino communities in Florida to help get out the vote for Mrs Clinton, and say in their communities, they're not seeing an "enthusiasm gap".

"Maybe we're in a bubble, but we have a lot of people who are very energetic [about Mrs Clinton]," said Mr Oriole.

That's not the case for Robin and Natalie Dauterive, a couple living near Austin, Texas.

They have been long-time Hillary fans, but being among so many conservatives in Texas can make it difficult.

"I'm gay, so I feel like it's my second coming out party as a Democrat, to be free to wear my Hillary shirt," said Robin, who was wearing a 2008 Hillary campaign shirt and plenty of colourful Hillary pins, standing next to her wife.

Image caption Robin and Natalie Dauterive live in Texas where Clinton fans are few

The two were one of the first couples to get married in Massachusetts when same-sex marriage became legal there in 2004.

"She's more progressive than people know and has a lot more foreign policy experience than Bernie," she said. "Obviously she's not infallible, but she's done so many things people don't even know about."

Walking through the airport in Austin before she left, she said a security officer grimaced at her Hillary shirt and said he "didn't want to hear Hillary's name right now".

"I was shocked," she said.

In Philadelphia, she's happy she can loudly support Hillary.