Did Bill Clinton's Convention Speech Deliver for President Obama?

The former president spoke at the Democratic National Convention to make the case for Obama's re-election.


Former President Bill Clinton spoke Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention, making an impassioned case for President Barack Obama's re-election in November. His speech also served to formally nominate the president as the Democratic candidate.

In his nearly 50-minute speech, which deviated from his prepared remarks to include a considerable amount of ad-libbing, Clinton gave a comprehensive review of Obama's first-term accomplishments. He spoke about Obama's job creation, the success of the auto industry bailout, and his healthcare reform. Known for his strong economic record while in office, Clinton made a point to highlight the severity of the economic situation Obama inherited:

President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did. No president, not me, not any of my predecessors, could have repaired all of the damage he found in just four years.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

Although a good portion of the speech was dedicated to highlighting Obama's accomplishments during his first term, he also acknowledged that there was still work to be done:

Is the president satisfied? Of course not, but are we better off than we were when he took office? The answer is yes.

He also called out Republicans for their oft-repeated lies about Obama's plan to eliminate the work requirement in the welfare reform signed by Clinton himself, taking the time to explain why the Republican accusation is false. The inaccuracy, widely reported by the media, continues to be repeated by both Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan. He also addressed the claim that Obama "raided" Medicare to finance his healthcare reform.

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Clinton used these points to stress the convention theme of unity, saying Democrats "believe 'we're all in this together' is a better philosophy than 'you're on your own.'"

U.S. News's Robert Schlesinger says Obama could hardly have asked for more from Clinton. The former president is one of few figures who could successfully highlight how Obama's policies have worked and how the Republican Party has sought to obstruct Obama's agenda.

The one thing Clinton only addressed mildly was the future—what happens if President Obama gets four more years. But by squarely taking on the GOP attacks and telling the Democrats' story of the last four years, Clinton positioned Obama to focus on the future [Thursday night]. He won't have to cover the ground Clinton did [last night]. He'll no doubt set up a contrast with Romney, but he can do it in terms of Romney looking backward while he paints his road map for the next four years.

[See Photos of Michelle Obama Reaching Out to Democrats.]

Some criticized the length of Clinton's speech, noting how his many off-the-cuff remarks took the speech into the 11 o'clock hour. Fox News's Brit Hume called Clinton the most talented politician he's ever covered, but said the speech was "a little self-indulgent, and about thirty percent too long." CNN's John King commented, "Like every Clinton speech, it could use an editor."

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