Bill Clinton delivered the most electrifying presentation of either convention so far—and the most full-throated, clear and detailed defence of Barack Obama’s policies that anyone, including the president himself, has ever made.
Hatchet, consider yourself buried. Obama came out on stage and embraced the former president to ecstatic cheers. It will be a moment to remember the next time a political party has a bitter, grinding, primary fight that leaves pundits asking: Can this party ever unite again behind eventual nominee?
Clinton delivered a sprawling speech that veered from the prepared text and steamrolled over time limits – but the rapt audience clung to every word. No one has held a convention audience so spellbound since, well, Barack Obama in 2008.
Clinton leveraged his reputation as a centrist Democrat to pitch directly at independent voters turned off by gridlock in Washington. He touted Obama as a president who tried to work with Republicans on health care, debt reduction, and a jobs plan – but was stymied by their decision to make his defeat their top priority.
“One of the main reasons to re-elect Barack Obama is he’s still committed to constructive co-operation,” declared Clinton. “Heck, he even appointed Hillary.”
And he defended Obama’s economic policies—and dismantled Republican attacks—with the wonkish sophistication mixed with the accessible country-boy-from-Arkansas explication that was quintessential Clinton. A key line of his defence was this declaration:
“President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did. No one could have fully repaired all the damage he found in just four years.”
Clinton mocked the Republican speeches in Tampa as “this alternative universe,” summarizing their pitch to voters this way:
“We left him a total mess. He hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough. So fire him, and put us back in.”
And he described Obama as “cool on the outside but burning for America on the inside.”
Even as he talked late into the night, about everything from Medicare financing to the structure of student loan relief, he left the audience wanting more.
Even the Romney campaign’s response was an homage to the former president:
“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,” said Amanda Henneberg, a Romney spokeswoman.