President Obama emerged from offstage to bear hug Bill Clinton at the Democratic National convention tonight moments after Clinton giving a rousing speech nominating Obama for reelection, calling the president a man who is "cool on the outside," but "burns for America on the inside."
Once a political adversary, Bill Clinton tonight went to bat for the president, playing the dual parts of professor and preacher, firing up the crowd and explaining just how Obama has succeeded in working to fix a flailing economy.
Clinton strode to the podium to the strains of his old presidential campaign theme song "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow," and a roar of applause from Democrats who remember the boom times of his two administrations.
"I want to nominate a man cool on the outside but burning for America on the inside.... I want Barack Obama to be the next president of the United States and I proudly nominate him as the standard bearer of the Democratic Party," Clinton told the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
He complimented Obama for his ability to work with those who ran against him, saying Obama appointed several people to top jobs who had supported Clinton's wife Hillary Clinton during their bitter battle for the Democratic presidential nomination four years ago.
"Heck, he even appointed Hillary," Clinton said. Hillary Clinton is Obama's secretary of state.
Articulating the successes of the Obama administration in 30 minutes more concisely and energetically than the Obama campaign has in six months, Clinton said President Obama's policies were working to fix the economy.
"I understand the challenge we face. I know many Americans are still angry and frustrated with the economy. Though employment is growing, banks are beginning to lend and even housing prices are picking up a bit, too many people don't feel it," he said.
"No president – not me or any of my predecessors -- could have repaired all the damage in just four years. But conditions are improving and if you'll renew the president's contract you will feel it," he said.
The Romney campaign has made a point to ask voters if they are better off today than they were four years ago. Clinton twice answered Romney's question head on and in the affirmative.
"Are we better off than we were when he took office, with an economy in free fall, losing 750,000 jobs a month? The answer is yes," he roared.
Clinton celebrated Obama's signature healthcare law, pointing out that more 3 million young people are now insured and that health care spending has grown under 4 percent for first time in 50 years.
"So are we all better off because President Obama fought for [health care reform] and passed it," Clinton asked. "You bet we are," he answered to applause.
Clinton attacked GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, architect of the Republican budget plan, for being disingenuous last week at the Republican National Convention.
"When Congressman Ryan looked into the TV camera and attacked President Obama's 'biggest coldest power play' in raiding Medicare, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. You see, that $716 billion is exactly the same amount of Medicare savings Congressman Ryan had in his own budget," he said.
"It takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did," Clinton said to laughs and cheers.
Clinton headlined the second night of the Democratic National Convention and he officially nominated Obama, a job typically performed by the nominee's running mate.
Obama traveled to Charlotte to hear Clinton praise and nominate him. The president stayed in the White House with his two daughters on Tuesday night to watch his wife Michelle give an emotional speech backing his character and his presidency.
Though Clinton and Obama have sparred in the past, especially during the 2008 Democratic primaries that pitted Obama against Hillary Clinton, the Obama campaign bet that the former president, a Democrat who oversaw nearly a decade of economic prosperity, will remind voters of what having a Democrat in the White House can mean for their wallets.
"In Tampa the Republican argument against the president's re-election was pretty simple: We left him a total mess, he hasn't finished cleaning it up yet, so fire him and put us back in," he said.
"I like the argument for President Obama's re-election a lot better. He inherited a deeply damaged economy, put a floor under the crash, began the long hard road to recovery, and laid the foundation for a more modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses, and lots of new wealth for the innovators," he said.
Clinton also said that a vote for Obama represents a vote for doing what is best for the country, not just for oneself.
"The most important question is, what kind of country do you want to live in? If you want a you're-on-your-own, winner-take-all society, you should support the Republican ticket. If you want a country of shared prosperity and shared responsibility -- a we're-all-in-this-together society -- you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden," he said.
Clinton's speech marks the apex of a previously rocky relationship with Obama. When Obama ran against his wife Hillary Clinton in 2008 for the Democratic nomination, Bill Clinton often jabbed Obama on the stump, even calling his campaign a "fairy tale."
Hillary Clinton, now President Obama's secretary of state and a possible 2016 contender, will not be at the convention. She is on an 11-day tour of Asia and the Pacific and is expected to be in the tiny island nation of East Timor at the time her husband takes the stage.
Democrats may be betting that Clinton will remind voters of more prosperous times under a Democratic president, but the Republicans said the former president's presence will only remind voters of Obama's failures.
Former House Speaker and onetime Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich told USA Today that Clinton's appearance "an enormous risk" that would remind voters of how "pathetically bad Obama has been."
GOP vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan, campaigning today in Iowa, said Clinton would do little more than deliver "a great rendition of how good things were in the 1990s. But we're not going to hear much about how things have been in the last four years."
Loyalists defended the campaign's decision to parade out Clinton tonight.
Bill Clinton Will Nominate President Obama
"A former president who is very popular who can explain about the policies and the parallel tracks the two presidents have had in the sense of investing in education, investing in research and development, alternative energy and green energy and a responsible way of balancing the budget," Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago who served in both the Clinton and Obama administrations said today on "Good Morning America."
"I think he can do nothing but help and the notion that Newt is going to give our party strategic advice, no thank you," he said.
Clinton, whose administration was marred by a sex scandal and impeachment trial, is more popular today than most public officials.
Democrats hope that popularity will rub off on Obama, who according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, has the lowest favorability rating of any incumbent president entering a convention.
Throughout the evening, party loyalists and leaders addressed the convention in support of President Obama.
"To those like Mitt Romney who want to take us backwards, let's send a strong message in November: as we say in Brooklyn, "Fuhgeddaboutit," said New York Sen. Chuck Schumer to cheers.
Just before Clinton spoke Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren addressed the convention, evoking the memory of Ted Kennedy and hammering the key idea that Obama will be better for the middle class.
"Let me ask you... Are you ready to fight for good jobs and a strong middle class? Are you ready to work for a level playing field? Are you ready to prove to another generation of Americans that we can build a better country and a newer world," she asked.
The convention met with brief controversy this afternoon. A vote was taken to amend the party platform with language that affirmed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and included the word "God." The original platform did not contain that language. The change was made by voice vote.