Barack Obama

Bill Clinton nominates Obama in speech at Democratic convention

Former president shows he's still got the magic touch as he returns to centre stage to back Obama's bid for another spell in the White House

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 September, 2012, 3:11am


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As Bill Clinton strode onstage at the Democratic National Convention, his campaign theme song, Don't Stop, blasted through the packed arena.

A more appropriate anthem might have been the oldie, Happy Days Are Here Again as shouts of "We Love You Bill Clinton" echoed in the hall.

The former US president was preparing to tell the country why President Barack Obama deserved another four years.

And a partisan crowd of more than 20,000 ate up every one of his 48 minutes at the microphone, the highlight of Wednesday's schedule.

The delegates jumped up and down, cheering his repeated, and generous, praise for Obama and, at one point, for the secretary of state, his wife, Hillary.

They roared their assent when he asked whether the country is better off now than when Obama took office. But at other moments, they sat raptly as Clinton showed he hadn't lost his ability to cast a spell.

He riffed Ronald Reagan saying, "There you go again," and brought the crowd to its feet by mocking Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan's for his "brass".

For Clinton, the speech dramatised the evolution in his relationship with Obama, from bitter antagonism to cautious embrace and now, a full-throated endorsement. People who know both men do not play down the lingering tension between them.

It is a legacy of the 2008 Democratic primary, when Obama defeated Hillary Rodham Clinton in a fierce battle that seemed to leave Bill Clinton more wounded than his wife.

"He's still got it. Bubba's still good. He told the story of America," said Keith Williams, a 56-year-old delegate from Detroit.

"I looooooved it!" shouted Mississippi delegate Curley Clark, as he waved an American flag in one hand and a "Middle Class First" placard in the other.

"We're gonna turn Mississippi blue!" said Clark, 62 .

"Bill Clinton has a way of speaking in common language to common people and getting the truth out there about the lies being told by Republicans."

The Democrats, facing a presidential election with the highest unemployment figures since the Depression, were understandably eager to get the secret-sauce recipe from a Democrat who had won re-election.

Clinton, the only two-term Democratic president since Franklin Roosevelt, was asked by Obama to formally nominate him.

But Clinton's presence served other, larger purposes. He was there to embody the Roaring '90s - the longest economic boom on record, when Americans created nearly 21 million jobs and Washington ran a budget surplus - before the Republicans came to power and things began to fall apart. His goal was to convince voters that they should not turn the presidency back to a Republican, Mitt Romney.

He described Obama as "a man who is cool on the outside but who burns for America on the inside". And he said the president had "laid the foundation for a more modern, more well-balanced economy".

He added: "President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did.

"Listen to me now: no president, not me, not any of my predecessors, no one could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years."

After the speech, Clinton was joined onstage by Obama, who made his first appearance at the convention.

The former president bowed, and Obama pulled him into an embrace as the thousands of delegates in the convention hall in Charlotte, North Carolina, roared their approval.

After Clinton and Obama exited the stage, the crowd's chants of "Fired up! Ready to go!" - the Obama campaign's signature line -filled the air.

The delegates then made Obama's nomination official in a state-by-state roll call vote.

Obama is due to accept his party's nomination late this morning, Hong Kong time.

Additional reporting by Associated Press and The New York Times