Former President Bill Clinton at the International AIDS conference in Washington, D.C., in July. Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. | President Obama’s re-election prospects will get a boost Wednesday night from Bill Clinton, who 16 years ago became the first Democratic president since Harry Truman to win a second term.
The 42nd president will have a central role, officially placing Mr. Obama’s name in nomination, then delivering remarks that will outline precisely why he thinks his wife’s one-time primary rival deserves four more years in office.
The Associated Press’ Beth Fouhy reports that the moment marks “the most visible on a path toward reconciliation” for the two men who not so long ago were heated political enemies:
That Obama would choose the former president for such a high-profile speaking spot and that Clinton would accept seemed unfathomable in 2008, when the two clashed bitterly during the Democratic nomination showdown between Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former president’s wife. Even though Hillary Clinton now serves as Obama’s secretary of state, resentments between the current and former presidents have been slow to ebb.
But now, with the Democratic incumbent locked in a tight race with Republican Mitt Romney, Obama has fully embraced Clinton as a political partner in hopes of capturing the former president’s uncanny knack for political survival against tough odds.
And Paul West writes in the Los Angeles Times that Clinton’s convention speech may have two goals: helping the current occupant of the White House, but also lay the groundwork for another presidential bid by his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, four years from now:
Obama has asked Clinton to place his name in nomination, which makes him the first ex-president to have that honor and provides further proof, if any were needed, of his importance to the reelection effort.
Clinton is already raising money for Obama from wealthy donors and volunteering strategic advice. “He calls me frequently,” said a senior Obama campaign official in Chicago. “He is all the way in.”
He is also keeping the family business alive while his wife finishes her term as secretary of State. He has been making endorsements in down-ballot races and raising money for Democrats who backed her presidential campaign and could be in a position to help her again.
Senior Obama campaign officials expressed confidence about Clinton’s role, telling NewsHour reporters Tuesday that if they want a preview of the speech they should just turn on the television set. Ads starring Clinton offering a testimonial for the president have been running round the clock. The officials said that’s a 30-second version of what Clinton will say.
Inside the Time Warner Cable Arena Tuesday night, each speaker had the specific task of laying out an element of the president’s agenda, defending his policies or going after Mitt Romney.
In a carefully orchestrated program, the evening moved swiftly along, with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn outlining what he says is the real story of Mr. Obama’s record on welfare reform. And former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland presented an argument Buckeye State voters will hear again and again, that one in 8 residents of the state were aided by the auto bailout. One female politician after another attacked the GOP for attempting to take reproductive decisions away from individual women. Each element was a key plank of the Obama campaign this fall.
The Republicans painted the evening as showcasing a party promising more government control, focusing in particular on a video played on the floor in which a narrator said, “Government is the only thing that we all belong to.” This was the GOP’s response:
We don’t belong to government, the government belongs to us.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) September 4, 2012
Meanwhile, a new CNN poll found Romney got a 1-point bounce following his convention. The survey had Mr. Obama at 49 percent and Romney at 47 percent, a virtual tie.
The program gavels in at 5 p.m. ET. See it all on our livestream:
ABOUT LAST NIGHT…
First lady Michelle Obama had the crowd in tears, and she got choked up a little herself as she closed out a speech defining her husband, the man. Among her money lines: “Today, I love my husband even more than I did four years ago. Even more than I did 23 years ago. I love that he’s never forgotten how he started.”
But as she detailed what he’s done in office, she added, “These issues aren’t political — they are personal.”
“Barack knows the American dream because he’s lived it,” she said.
Watch the first lady’s speech here or below.
For the NewsHour Tuesday, Gwen Ifill interviewed Wednesday’s headline speaker Elizabeth Warren. Watch that here.
Gwen and Judy Woodruff talked about the Democrats’ push to appeal to women at the convention. Watch the discussion here.
And Cory Booker stopped by the skybox. Watch that here.
Ray Suarez looked at how the campaign needs young voters. Watch his report here.
The NewsHour captured a bunch of the speeches on our YouTube page.
Here is the Kal Penn speech everyone was talking about.
Our livestream lineup:
- Gwen’s breakfast panel at the NASCAR Museum, with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Alejandra Salinas, National President of College Democrats of America.
- The Doubleheader with Hari Sreenivasan, Mark Shields and David Brooks around 5 p.m.
- Interviews with journalists, newsmakers and NewsHour staff.
- Dispatches from our team on the floor as delegates officially get to business.
- GoPro hat cam!
And what the heck is hat cam, you ask? Hari explained in a piece we posted Tuesday night.
Watch here or below.
Keep an eye on our Flickr feed of images from the convention. Every image in the stream is free for use under a Creative Commons license.
Here is a slide show from freelancer Jared Soares (@jaredsoares):
- Where do you fit? Take the Pew Research Center/NewsHour Political Party ID quiz here and share your results with your friends.
- Christina and Judy talked about the first lady in the Political Checklist. Watch that here.
- Here’s the Doubleheader, with Hari, Mark and David.
- Superstar livestream camera operator Joshua Barajas made a cameo in a segment Tuesday. Watch us unpack the swag bag.
- Christina also chatted with Nathan Gonzales and Kyle Trygstad about the Congressional landscape. Watch that here.
Obama-Biden campaign: former President Bill Clinton is still working on his speech.”He’s still writing.It’s not a finished product.”
— Bret Baier (@BretBaier) September 5, 2012
Lilly Ledbetter proves my point from last week: Real people are more compelling speakers than most politicians.
— Stuart Rothenberg (@StuPolitics) September 5, 2012
Craig Robinson seems like a good guy, but he’s under pressure to win this year at Oregon St — zero winning seasons in PAC-10.
— Tony Fratto (@TonyFratto) September 5, 2012
BEST OF THE WEB
- BuzzFeed reports that conservative activist Phylis Schlafly has been pressuring Rep. Todd Akin to get out of the Missouri Senate race.
- There’s a petition to get Betty White to introduce the president Thursday night.
- Roll Call’s Heard on the Hill star Neda Semnani talked to Richard Schiff about the role of celebrities at the conventions.
TONIGHT’S HEADLINE SPEAKERS
6 p.m. ET hour: AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Washington state Sen. Patty Murray, New York Sen. Charles Schumer and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy
7 p.m. hour: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Education Secretary Arne Duncan
8 p.m. hour: House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell
9 p.m. hour: California Attorney General Kamala Harris, United Auto Workers President Bob King and Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen
10 p.m. hour: Costco co-founder Jim Sinegal, Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former President Bill Clinton
Cassie M. Chew contributed to this report.
All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:
For more coverage, visit our politics page.
Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.
Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.