Despite Clinton's Endorsement, Obama’s Problems Remain

Despite the case made for him by former President Bill Clinton, Barack Obama still faces an uphill battle to re-election.

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Bill Clinton greets Barack Obama on stage during day two of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

Let's think back a week.

Ann Romney had given what Fox News' Britt Hume called "the single most effective political speech I've ever heard given by a political wife." Rep. Paul Ryan had followed with a stirring speech that established his credentials for the vice presidency. Mitt Romney had then delivered the speech of his political life. Republicans were ascending. Democrats were descending. Big Mo had finally found a home.

Today, we're told Michelle Obama easily broke Ann Romney's record for speeches by spouses. That at no time did the energy in Tampa match what we've seen in Charlotte in the last two days. And that in no way did the Republicans send a speaker to the stage who could rival the greatness of former President Bill Clinton.

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

No question: Clinton was on his game Wednesday night in Charlotte. The nation's 42nd president brought down the house with his folksy-if-lengthy address to the Democratic National Convention. He deftly explained away the president's failures, highlighted his accomplishments and made the case, such as it is, for his re-election.

But just as the speeches of Michelle and Clinton have replaced those of Ryan and the Romneys as hot topics around America's water coolers, expect the conversation to turn from those speeches to some other important news that has emanated from Charlotte. And soon.

Clinton characterized our electoral choice this year as between "we're all in this together" and "you're on your own." But hours earlier, the Democrats demonstrated they definitely are not all in this together.

[See a slideshow of the 12 Most Memorable Political Convention Speeches.]

When news broke early in the week that the Democratic platform did not include God or continue to insist Jerusalem be considered the capital of Israel, the party sought to fix this with amendments to be approved during low-intensity moments of the convention before the TV cameras tuned in.

But three times, the Democrats tried to get approval for the changes by voice vote. And three times, the nays outshouted the yays. Nevertheless, Democratic National Convention Chair Antonio Villaraigosa announced the amendment had passed by the required two-thirds majority. Chicago—or at least its politics—had come to Charlotte via the mayor of Los Angeles.

[Take the U.S. News Poll: Did Bill Clinton's Convention Speech Deliver for President Obama?]

Arab-American delegates aren't happy. Paul Begala, the former Clinton hand, declared it "embarrassing, stupid" and "an unforced error by my party." Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz, the Baghdad Bob of the Democratic Party, said simply there was no controversy.

It is highly unlikely we've heard the last of this. But commentators did agree on one thing: Clinton's speech meant President Obama would have a tough act to follow on the convention's final night. Will Clinton's speech "trickle up" tonight? Perhaps. But even if it does, the bounce won't last.

Because nothing that has happened in Charlotte—not Michelle Obama's speech, not Bill Clinton's, certainly not the speeches of Sandra Fluke and Elizabeth Warren, and absolutely not the Jerusalem/God controversy—has done a thing to address the president's central weakness: the ability to appeal to white working-class voters.

  • Read Robert Schlesinger: 6 Things Bill Clinton Did Right
  • Read the U.S. News Debate: Was the Republican Convention a Success for Romney?
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