Bill Clinton delivers emphatic endorsement of Obama, saying America is better off

Former President Bill Clinton, employing his charisma and eloquence and command of history to its fullest extent, set out to make the economic case for a second President Obama term Wednesday night -- suggesting the country is on the cusp of a '90s-style jobs boom so long as Obama can finish the job he started.

"If you renew the president's contract, you will feel it," Clinton said.

The former president, who presided over that boom, emphatically answered the "are you better off" question Mitt Romney posed at last week's Republican convention.

"Are we where we want to be today? No. Is the President satisfied? Of course not. But are we better off than we were when he took office?" Clinton asked.

After a resounding "yes" from the crowd, Clinton echoed: "The answer is yes."

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The endorsement was a vital one for Obama, with Clinton still occupying a place in the public's mind as a moderate and economically prudent Democratic figure -- in partisan and economically trying times. Despite Obama's rocky history with the former president, the speech was unequivocal in its support for the current White House occupant.

The audience at the national convention in Charlotte erupted in applause as Obama joined Clinton onstage at the end of the address, after which the party formally nominated Obama for a second term on the job.

Clinton, speaking off-the-cuff at times, meticulously crafted an argument that Republicans have pushed a false narrative about Obama and that with a little more time and perhaps cooperation from those in Congress, the economy will spring into action. No doubt recognizing that millions of jobless Americans pine for the prosperity of the '90s, Clinton pointed to a pickup in lending and home prices to hint that the economy was showing the same signs of life he saw two decades ago.

"I had the same thing happen in 1994 and early 1995," Clinton said.

The ex-president said the only difference this time is in the "circumstances," and the severity of the problem.

"No president -- not me, not any of my predecessors, no one could have repaired all the damage that he found in just four years," Clinton said. "But he has laid the foundation for a new, modern successful economy."

He urged Americans to "keep President Obama on the job."

Clinton, through much of his speech, argued that the alternative would be much worse. He echoed the Obama stump-speech message that Republicans want to go back to the policies that "got us in trouble in the first place." He slammed the Medicare overhaul and tax-cut plans of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, claiming Republicans want to "double-down on trickle down."
Clinton even invoked his predecessor, Ronald Reagan, saying: "As another president once said, there they go again."

Clinton also rejected GOP claims that Obama has moved to gut the welfare reform he signed into law, arguing that recent changes made by the Obama administration would strengthen work requirements, and not weaken them as Republicans say.

"In Tampa ... the Republican argument against the president's re-election was actually pretty simple, pretty snappy. It went something like this -- we left him a total mess, he hasn't cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him, put us back in," Clinton said. "I like the argument for President Obama's re-election a lot better. ... 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."

The Romney campaign, which claims Obama has failed in his task of restoring the economy, chose not to quibble with the details of Clinton's speech Wednesday. Instead, spokesman Ryan Williams said it only served to underscore the gap between his leadership and Obama's.

"President Clinton drew a stark contrast between himself and President Obama tonight. Bill Clinton worked with Republicans, balanced the budget, and after four years he could say you were better off. Barack Obama hasn't worked across the aisle - he's barely worked with other Democrats -- and has the worst economic record of any president in modern history. President Clinton's speech brought the disappointment and failure of President Obama's time in office clearly into focus," Williams said.

The crowd in Charlotte, though, ate it up as Clinton once again flexed his reputation as among the best in the business.

"It was one of his best speeches," said Wisconsin delegate Gary Hawley.

Pennsylvania delegate Rosemary Bolland told she was "thrilled" with the speech, saying the ex-president "has the ability as a communicator to get the facts out and tell the story in a way the American people will listen."

The lengthy speech Wednesday night marked Clinton's seventh at a Democratic national convention in the past 25 years.

Just four years ago, Clinton's wife, Hillary Clinton, was battling Obama for the party nomination, and the former president was among Obama's toughest critics.

Now, Hillary Clinton is Obama's secretary of state, and Obama Democrats need the former president's star power and fundraising prowess as much as Clinton, who clearly still enjoys the spotlight, needs the party.

Bill Clinton on Wednesday pointed to his wife's current position as proof of Obama's spirit of cooperation in Washington -- as he argued Republicans have not approached him with the same attitude.

"Heck, he even appointed Hillary!" Clinton said.

Ahead of the address, Clinton sent out a fundraising email on Obama's behalf -- saying it's "absolutely urgent" that the president stay in office.

"We can win this," he wrote.

Obama will formally accept the nomination on Thursday in his late-night address.

That speech, convention organizers announced Wednesday morning, has been moved from the Bank of America Stadium to the indoor Time Warner Cable Arena due to what Democratic officials said were weather concerns. The arena, where the rest of the convention program was being held, is a considerably smaller venue and the decision to hold the president's address there means thousands of Obama supporters who had been planning to attend will be left out.'s Judson Berger and Cristina Corbin contributed to this report.