Bill Clinton speech makes the case for Obama

Former President Bill Clinton addresses delegates during the second session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, September 5, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) – Former President Bill Clinton rallied to the defense of an one-time adversary on Wednesday, arguing that U.S. President Barack Obama cannot be blamed for a bad economy he inherited and must be re-elected to restore strong growth and create jobs.

The Democrats’ most popular elder statesman, Clinton caps the second night of the Democratic National Convention with a speech designed to remind voters of the budget surpluses and job growth he led in the 1990s during his two terms in the White House.

He will appeal for more time for Obama to fix the economy and reduce the jobless rate of 8.3 percent, according to excerpts of a speech to be delivered later. Just as Obama has done repeatedly, Clinton blamed Republican President George W. Bush, without naming him, for leaving Obama with a broken economy.

“He inherited a deeply damaged economy, put a floor under the crash, began the long hard road to recovery, and laid the foundation for a more modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses, and lots of new wealth for the innovators,” Clinton will say.

His appearance followed a sometimes chaotic day at the convention in Charlotte, where Obama had to personally intervene to force back into the party platform language declaring Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel.

And Democrats scrambled to move Obama’s Thursday night speech indoors. He had wanted to accept the Democratic nomination in an open-air stadium jammed with tens of thousands of supporters to portray an image of strength as he faces a tough fight with Republican Mitt Romney at the November 6. election.

But the threat of thunderstorms from remnants of Hurricane Isaac forced convention organizers to switch the speech to a much smaller location, the Time Warner Cable Arena.

That disappointed many thousands of Obama’s supporters with tickets for the stadium who will now be left out. There will be no colorful balloon drop from the ceiling, a familiar scene at U.S. political conventions.

Clinton was the main follow-up act to first lady Michelle Obama, who electrified the crowd with a powerful testimonial to her husband on Tuesday night.

In social media, reaction to her speech was off the charts.

She racked up 28,000 tweets per minute at the conclusion of her speech, according to Twitter. That was double the 14,000 that Romney saw in his convention speech last week. His wife Ann Romney’s tweets per minute tally was just over 6,000.

‘CANDID’ RELATIONSHIP

Clinton and Obama have had strained ties at times, going back to the bitter 2008 Democratic presidential primary battle when the former Illinois state senator defeated Clinton’s wife, Hillary.

But Clinton has since campaigned energetically for Obama and appeared in an ad in which he argues Romney would take the country back to Republican policies of deregulation and tax cuts for the rich “that got us in trouble in the first place.”

Asked by NBC News about his relationship with Obama, Clinton was frank: “It’s quite good, actually. It’s candid, it’s open. We haven’t been close friends a long time or anything like that, but he knows that I support him.”

Clinton rejected the criticism of Obama’s economic leadership leveled by Romney and fellow Republicans at their own convention last week in Tampa, Florida.

“In Tampa, the Republican argument against the president’s re-election was pretty simple: We left him a total mess, he hasn’t finished cleaning it up yet, so fire him and put us back in,” Clinton will say, according to the excerpts.

Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan was quick with a response, saying Obama bears no resemblance to Clinton, who was “a different kind of Democrat.”

“Bill Clinton gave us welfare reform. Bill Clinton worked with the Republicans to cut spending. Bill Clinton did not play the kind of political games that President Obama’s playing,” Ryan told CNN.

Obama arrived in Charlotte on Wednesday afternoon and planned to be in the convention hall for Clinton’s speech, a campaign official said. The hall was already jammed with spectators.

Speakers lauded Obama for the bailout of the auto industry, promoting women’s rights and allowing the children of illegal immigrants to stay in the United States.

“President Obama is leading us through a challenging era by recognizing that the strength of America is measured in the opportunities everyone has to work hard and succeed,” said John Perez, speaker of the California State Assembly

An online Reuters/Ipsos poll gave Romney a slight edge over Obama among likely voters, 46 percent to 44 percent, barely changed from Romney’s 1-point advantage on Tuesday. The two contenders have been running close in national polls for months.

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