Will Bill Clinton Upstage Barack Obama at the DNC?

PHOTO: Bill Clinton and Barack Obama

Hundreds of thousands of voters will tune their televisions to watch the rock star of the Democratic Party take the stage Sept. 5 at the convention in Charlotte, N.C., and make what many already anticipate will be one of the most stirring speeches of the campaign.

And on the next night, President Obama will talk.

The Democratic National Committee confirmed Monday that former President Bill Clinton will be given a primetime speaking spot at the convention, taking the stage one night before Obama accepts his party's nomination, a role typically played by the vice president.

The speakers' roster already includes other party notables and up-and-comers including Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, but giving Clinton the microphone is a gamble for Obama.

Clinton during the 2008 campaign famously called Obama's bid for the White House a "fairy tale."

"It's more than just a gamble," Republican communications strategist Alice Stewart said. "I think it shows the Obama campaign is in deep trouble."

"Clinton will no doubt energize the crowd and instill party unity, but having him there is just a reminder of the contrast between these two presidents. Clinton oversaw economic success and prosperity."

If there are risks involved -- Clinton famously delivered a lengthy and convoluted address at the 1988 convention, has embarrassingly gone off topic when acting as an Obama surrogate and previously upstaged the president when he commandeered a 2010 White House briefing on tax cuts -- there are also rewards.

"There isn't anybody on the planet who has a greater perspective on not just the last four years, but the last two decades, than Bill Clinton," Obama strategist David Axelrod told The New York Times. "He can really articulate the choice that is before people."

Although once the focus of partisan attacks so rancorous they led to his impeachment, Clinton, 65, has found new popularity in recent years.

Clinton, whose presidency coincided with a period of unseen prosperity and who cooperated with Republicans to balance the budget, has become increasingly popular in the years after his presidency, including with Republicans.

Mitt Romney recently credited Clinton in a news release with presiding over "over balanced budgets and economic growth."

Clinton, who spoke at the 2008 DNC, which nominated Obama after a bruising primary with Hillary Clinton, has been a surrogate and supporter of the president ever since, though sometimes with less-than-perfect results.

Earlier this year, Clinton called for extending all the tax cuts, including those implemented by the Bush administration by the end of the year. Clinton later apologized for taking a stance that conflicted with the White House, but not before Republicans used it as an attack against Obama.

Vice President Biden will introduce Obama Sept. 6. About 70,000 people are expected to fill the Time Warner Arena for President Obama's speech.

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