This was not just to counter GOP charges that Obama has kept no promises but to make voters feel better about the track the country's on - currently they're 63 percent negative.
Obama and others acknowledged that the economy still faces a long slog back, but Clinton had the best single line of the convention: "In Tampa, the Republican argument against the president's re-election was pretty simple: We left him a total mess, he hasn't cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in."
Clinton, with his credibility as a centrist and job-creator, declared that no president in history could have repaired the economy in four years.
And he claimed that Obama tried to reach out to Republicans and "is still committed to cooperation" but has been rebuffed by "the faction that now dominates the Republican Party," which thinks "government is the enemy and compromise is weakness."
Indeed, such a faction does exist, but Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), aren't part of it.
Moreover, as the history of the polarized past four years is written (Bob Woodward has just added to it), Obama comes off at least as culpable as Republicans.
Obama's record is that he ran as a "post-partisan" unifier in 2008, then governed as a big-government liberal when he had huge Democratic majorities for two years. When voters rebuffed him in 2010, he did not "do a Clinton" and deal. He decided he'd do what he could by executive order and take the rest to the voters.
And now he has. "This is what the election comes down to. Over and over, we have been told by our opponents that bigger tax cuts and fewer regulations are the only way; that since government can't do everything, it should do nothing.
"If you can't afford health insurance, don't get sick. If a company releases toxic pollution into the air your children breathe, well that's the price of progress. If you can't afford to start a business or go to college, take my opponent's advice and 'borrow money from your parents.'"
It was all red meat for the Democratic base, scraps for independents and straw men for all. (Has any Republican suggested that the government "should do nothing?")
Base-mobilization and vilification may win the election for Obama, especially if middle-class voters think they will be better off with government help than with small-business growth.
However, the bitterness of 2012 does not bode well for problem-solving in 2013. Obama will not have an all-Democratic Congress, and Republicans have no reason to trust him.
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