CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Bill Clinton delivered for the Democrats on Wednesday evening, throwing the packed Time Warner Cable Arena into a frenzy of cheers, laughter and applause as he gave the firmest argument yet for the re-election of President Barack Obama.
Clinton offered to the Democratic National Convention a confident endorsement of Obama’s policies amid an economic recovery that he said was now four years in the making, but that needed more time given the depths the economy had sunk to by the time the president took office in 2009. Clinton fact-checked Republican arguments against Obama and filled what had been a gaping hole in the president's case to independent voters with substantive, concrete evidence for why the commander in chief deserves another four years.
And, Clinton might have been the only Democrat capable of making such a case.
“Now, are we where we want to be today? No,” Clinton said. “Is the president satisfied? Of course not. Are we better off than we were when he took office? ... The answer is, yes.”
A rocky afternoon on the convention floor gave way to a series of speakers offering a consistent defense of Obama’s economic record. The night concluded with a picture of party strength and unity, as Obama made a surprise appearance on stage with Clinton after the former president's speech. The Democratic Party’s most recent presidents embraced, waved to the crowd and exited stage right.
Day two of convention floor festivities kicked off with voice votes to amend the party’s platform to include the word “God” and language recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital after Republicans had pounced on the two absences. The controversial platform change came just a few days after Obama campaign surrogates seemed unsure how to answer the question of whether the country was better off than it was four years ago.
Those concerns were shoved to the side during Clinton’s 48-minute speech, during which he regularly went off-script to accentuate points as he defended Obama’s health care law, economic stimulus package, auto bailout and debt reduction efforts, as well as highlighted Obama’s student loan reforms.
“If you want a future of shared prosperity, where the middle class is growing and poverty is declining, where the American Dream is really alive and well again, and where the United States remains the leading force for peace, justice and prosperity in a highly competitive world, you have to vote for Barack Obama,” Clinton said.
In an interview earlier in the day, House Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen (Md.) said Clinton’s strength would be to draw a parallel between the two administrations, with Obama’s economic policies as the 21st-century version of Clinton’s.
“I think that’s where President Clinton can really be helpful in building the case,” Van Hollen said.
Speaking with Roll Call on the convention floor moments before Clinton took stage, Rep. Shelley Berkley (Nev.), who is running for Senate, described how important the former president’s speech would be.
“There is nobody in this country that can explain why this country needs president Obama like President Clinton,” Berkley said.
In response, Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said that “from 20 million new jobs to historic welfare reforms, President Clinton has a record President Obama simply can’t match. Americans deserve a president willing to run on his own accomplishments, and not the record of a predecessor.”
Clinton has said he will do whatever it takes to help Obama get re-elected, and his speech Wednesday night proved that. Going forward, Clinton will be seen on the campaign trail for the president, as well as lending his fundraising assistance. In fact, the campaign dispatched an appeal for donations moments after the two presidents left the stage.
Neda Semnani contributed to this report.