CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Barack Obama shared center stage at the Democratic National Convention Wednesday night with Bill Clinton, an enormously popular predecessor who told an overflow and enthralled crowd that he had no doubt that the president could turn the troubled economy around if given a second term.
The tens of thousands of delegates and supporters who jammed into Time Warner Cable Arena responded with sustained applause and standing ovations. They waved signs, “Middle Class First,” and chanted “Four more years!”
“I love our country — and I know we’re coming back,” Clinton said. “For more than 200 years, through every crisis, we’ve always come out stronger than we went in. And we will again as long as we do it together. We champion the cause for which our founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor — to form a more perfect union. If that’s what you believe, if that’s what you want, we have to re-elect President Barack Obama.”
The 42nd president remains hugely popular among Democrats, and his speech was hotly anticipated by delegates yearning for a full-throated defense of Obama’s economic policies after months of attacks by Republicans on the No. 1 issue in the presidential race.
Before he arrived on stage, the delegates and guests began clapping and dancing along with a video that played Clinton’s campaign theme song, Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.” During the speech, the former president had the delegates leaping to their feet as he delivered a detailed, point-by-point rebuttal to every Republican criticism of Obama, from the 2009 stimulus package to a recent change to welfare regulations.
The speech was vintage Clinton. He frequently veered from his prepared remarks — and went way long — and had the crowd in stitches. “We love you, Bill!” they screamed.
Obama had watched Clinton’s speech from the arena after arriving in Charlotte Wednesday afternoon. He appeared from behind the stage after Clinton’s 47-minute speech to deafening cheers. The two men hugged as the Tom Petty song “I Won’t Back Down” played.
Clinton not only blamed Republicans for causing the problems in the economy in the first place, but for preventing Obama from allowing the economy to fully recover. For example, he said, House Republicans have failed to pass the president’s jobs plan that would have created more than a million new jobs.
He argued that it’s unreasonable to expect a total recovery in one term, but that Obama has created jobs and cut taxes through the recovery, the auto industry bailout and an agreement with management, labor and environmental groups to double car mileage over the next few years.
Clinton’s endorsement was meant to signal a “good economy seal of approval” for Obama, a promise that Obama’s policies will bring back the peace and prosperity of the 1990s, when a booming economy created millions of jobs, stocks soared, and a flood of tax revenues helped balance the federal budget for the first time in a generation.