NEWS

Obama prepares to make pitch for 4 more years

09/06/2012 07:03 EDT | Updated 11/06/2012 05:12 EST
Inside the Time Warner Cable Arena Wednesday night, Bill Clinton delivered a spirited endorsement and defence of Barack Obama, putting pressure on the current president to make an even more engaging and effective case tonight for his re-election.

The Obama campaign gave Clinton the top prime-time speaking spot at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., a slot that's usually reserved for vice-presidents or vice-presidential nominees.

And Vice-President Joe Biden's speech was moved to Thursday, as officials hoped to take advantage of Clinton’s popularity and reputation for fiscal management to give a major boost to Obama before his acceptance speech tonight.

But it was a risky move and one that could backfire if comparisons are made between Obama and Clinton's speech, and the current president’s address is found wanting.

- RELATED: Clinton urges America to 'renew Obama's contract'

Questions remain whether Obama's noted rhetoric will have the same effect it has had in past Democratic conventions.

He first came to national attention eight years ago with a soaring keynote address in Boston. Four years later, he benefited from an almost cult-like status and many Americans may have been more receptive then to his lofty rhetoric and promises of hope and change.

Some have already suggested that the decision to keep his speech at the 18,000-seat Time Warner arena instead of moving it to the Bank of America Stadium, which holds 74,000, has more to do with a possible lack of attendance than bad weather forecasts.

And now he must compete with Clinton, who received a rousing ovation from the Democratic crowd. Attendees appeared more muted compared to the opening night on Tuesday but roared in approval once the former president took the stage Wednesday night.

Clinton praises health-care legislation

Sounding at times like a preacher, professor and prosecutor, Clinton used figures, facts and folksy charm to extol Obama’s first term as president.

He was at his best during the first half of the speech, when the audience seemed most responsive, as he did exactly what the Obama campaign wanted him to do — advocate for Obama on the issue of the economy.

Clinton said Obama had “laid the foundation for a new, modern, successful economy of shared prosperity. And if you will renew the president’s contract, you will feel it. You will feel it.”

And he ridiculed what he described as the argument made by Republicans for wanting to oust the president, offered during their convention to nominate Mitt Romney last week in Florida.

“It went something like this: We left him a total mess. He hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough. So fire him and put us back in," Clinton said.

“I like the argument for President Obama’s re-election a lot better. Here it is: He inherited a deeply damaged economy. He put a floor under the crash. He began the long, hard road to recovery and laid the foundation for a modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses and lots of new wealth for innovators.”

The crowd cheered and rose to their feet when Clinton asked: “Are we better off than we were when he took office?”

Clinton praised Obama for his health-care legislation and the bailout of the auto industry. And defended Obama from critics who blame him for a stalled economy.

“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.”

At the end of his speech Clinton was joined by Obama, who now must follow up on some of those same themes tonight, as he tries to fire up his base and convince voters he is deserving of re-election.

Obama to offer a 'better path'

Rev. Jesse Jackson, also known for his oratorical skills, said it will be important for Obama to explain that when he came into office “the arrow was pointing downward."

“When President [George W.] Bush came in, he inherited a surplus," Jackson told CBC News. "When President Obama came in, he inherited a hole seemingly without a bottom.”

But now things are different, Jackson said.

“The automobile industry is back on track, 100,000 troops are back home from Iraq, [Osama] bin Laden is no more, more Americans are covered with health insurance," he said. "So his arrow is pointing upward and he needs to expand that trajectory."

Former Massachusetts governor and past Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis said Obama also needs to clearly differentiate himself from his political opponents.

"Draw the contrast — and it’s a very sharp one — between him and the Democratic party and these two guys the Republicans have nominated," Dukakis told CBC News.

"He’s got to make that case. I don't think it's that difficult."

On Wednesday, Obama gave a brief preview of his speech, saying he will "offer what I believe is a better path forward, a path that will create good jobs and strengthen our middle class and grow our economy."

The business-friendly theme has been repeated often throughout the convention. But Obama may not have done himself any favours when, during an interview, he recently graded himself "incomplete" in terms of the economy.

Romney, Obama's Republican challenger, immediately pounced, saying “usually [it] means you’ve got to go back and take the course again.”

"Anyone who wants to let him try it again I think would be making a big mistake,” said Romney.

Chuck Sweetman, a delegate from Landgrove, Vt., said he thinks Obama shouldn’t be afraid to "brag about" his administration’s accomplishments but should talk about his plans for moving forward.

"What are the things he's looking to do? He has to be somewhat specific."

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