Former US president Bill Clinton gave a rousing endorsement of fellow Democrat US President Barack Obama in his first campaign appearance this year with the president on Sunday night, and helped him raise more than US$2 million.
A white-haired and svelte Clinton, 65, pounded the podium and pointed at the crowd while addressing about 500 Obama supporters outside the Virginia home of his friend and Democratic adviser Terry McAuliffe.
“I think he’s done a good job,” he told the crowd in his signature raspy voice, warmly introducing the man who defeated his wife, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, to win the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. “We are going the right direction under President Obama’s leadership.”
Clinton’s support could be pivotal for Obama’s efforts to raise money and to sell voters on his economic plans, which Republicans have denounced as fiscally reckless and rooted in populism instead of good business sense.
Clinton oversaw one of the most prosperous times in recent US history and managed to balance the federal budget, something Democrats are keen to remind voters of before the Nov. 6 election.
When he took the backyard podium, Obama, 50, noted Clinton’s “remarkable” economic record in his two White House terms and referred frequently to the political powerhouse standing behind him, who stands to be a huge fundraising force in the final months of the presidential campaign.
“I didn’t run for president simply to get back to where we were in 2007. I didn’t run for president simply to restore the ‘status quo’ before the financial crisis. I ran for president because we had lost our way since Bill Clinton was done being president,” Obama said.
The state of the US economy is expected to be the pivotal issue for voters in November.
With unemployment still relatively high and growth showing signs of slowing, Obama is under pressure to defend his string of big budget deficits and prove the soundness of his proposals to keep spending on infrastructure, clean energy and education and to raise taxes on the very rich.
Neither Obama nor Clinton referred to former US president George W. Bush, the Republican who served two presidential terms in between their tenures, nor the presumptive Republican nominee for this year’s White House race, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, by name in their outdoor remarks.
However, Clinton said Obama’s likely White House opponent this year wanted to revert to the policies that plunged the US into crisis, but “on steroids, which will get you the same consequences as before, on steroids.”
Clinton applauded Obama’s efforts in healthcare, clean energy promotion and student loan reform, and said that US employment levels were rebounding quickly from the financial and mortgage crises that took hold before Obama took office.
“Look, the man’s not Houdini, all he can do is beat the clock. He’s beating the clock,” Clinton said, comparing the pace of US recovery to Japan’s extended weakness after its own crisis. “The last thing you want to do is to turn around and embrace the policies that got us into trouble in the first place.”
Fresh from the previous night’s White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, where he took several digs at Romney, Obama was clearly in good humor at the Virginia event.
Turning to foreign policy, Obama said he and Hillary Clinton had “spent the last three-and-a-half years cleaning up other folks’ messes,” and made fun of Romney’s recent comment that Russia was the US’ “No. 1 geopolitical foe.”