The economic policies of the Obama administration are "beating the clock" on the long road out of the recession, former President Bill Clinton said Sunday night at his first-ever joint fundraising event with the current president.
"If you go back 500 years, whenever a country's financial system collapses, it takes between five and 10 years to get back to full employment," he said, reminding the crowd the market downturn of September 2008 occurred mere months before Obama assumed office.
President Clinton credits the stimulus and restructuring of the American auto industry for stabilizing the economic recovery. Opponents maintain positive growth has come too slowly, and in some cases in spite of the president's policies.
"Somebody will say to you, maybe, 'but I don't feel better.' And you say, look, the man's not Houdini; all he can do is beat the clock," Clinton said.
Clinton introduced President Obama at a reception and dinner for well-heeled donors of the campaign at the Virginia home of Terry McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. McAuliffe tells ABC News at least $3 million was raised for his party, which saw ticket costs starting at $1,000 a person for the reception and $20,000 for the smaller banquet event.
President Obama's remarks followed a similar path as Clinton, but toward the end focused squarely on the Republican Party and its presumptive presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. Seeking to paint the GOP has having strayed too far right from their traditional center, Obama repeated claims that even Ronald Reagan could not find a place among his contemporaries.
"Here's a guy who raised taxes. That in and of itself would have rendered him unelectable in a Republican primary," Obama said.
Telling donors he had just spent three years "cleaning up after other folks' messes" abroad, the president suggested Romney had an antiquated, Cold War view of foreign affairs.
"You've got the leading contender, the presumptive nominee, on the other side suddenly saying our number one enemy isn't al Qaeda, it's Russia," Obama said. "Maybe I didn't check the calendar this morning. I didn't know we were back in 1975."
President Obama's first official campaign rallies begin this weekend.
This morning the Romney campaign continued its dueling economic message in rebuttal of the event. Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg tells ABC News the president " promised" to keep unemployment below 8 percent, running against the predictions of a January 2009 administration report on the severity of the recession.
"President Obama may be able to convince his friends to tout the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression, but the American people deserve better," she said.
10:20 AM: This blog has been updated with a response from the Romney campaign.