2012 ELECTION

2012 DNC: Bill Clinton set to deliver DNC speech

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GOP running mate Paul Ryan, campaigning in Iowa, kept up his running criticism of the Democrats. He predicted Clinton and the Democrats would offer "a great rendition of how good things were in the 1990s.

PHOTOS: DNC kicks off in Charlotte

PHOTOS: DNC kicks off in Charlotte 13 Photos
PHOTOS: DNC kicks off in Charlotte

PHOTOS: RNC happenings, Conservative speakers and Planned Parenthood rally

PHOTOS: RNC happenings, Conservative speakers and Planned Parenthood rally 14 Photos
PHOTOS: RNC happenings, Conservative speakers and Planned Parenthood rally

But we're not going to hear much about how things have been in the last four years."

Ryan cast the country's economic struggles in grim terms, noting the national debt reached $16 trillion on Tuesday.

"That's a country in decline," he said.

To bolster Romney and Ryan, conservative groups announced nearly $13 million in new ad spending to counter Obama's convention.

American Crossroads planned to spend $6.6 million over the next 10 days on an ad that criticizes the economy under Obama's watch and Americans for Prosperity is spending another $6.2 million on ads criticizing the Democrats' health-care overhaul.

Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago mayor who served under both Clinton and Obama, made the rounds of morning talk shows Wednesday to trace a connection between the two presidents, speaking of "similar values, similar policies and similar objectives."

Clinton "can do nothing but help" Obama, Emanuel said, rejecting any notion that Clinton's ability to get things done and work with Republicans would somehow diminish perceptions of Obama.

But former Republican New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, writing in the New Hampshire Union Leader, said Clinton's speech "will serve to remind the world of a time when the leadership of the Democratic Party took fiscal responsibility seriously. It might even induce nostalgia for the days of balanced budgets and bipartisan accomplishments such as welfare reform."

The GOP released a new Web video showcasing the story of a man who lost his job and got back on his feet through the welfare-to-work requirements enacted under Clinton.

Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus repeated the widely debunked claim that Obama was gutting the work requirements, "holding back the prosperity of so many who are scraping to get by."

Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, making the case for Obama's economic policies in an appearance on MSNBC, said the president has a strong argument to make that people are doing better, but she acknowledged that "Americans are sitting around the breakfast table trying to figure out to make ends meet, so we have work to do."

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, spoke at a breakfast with Iowa delegates and urged party activists to get fully behind Obama in the next two months.

"We have 60 days to turn to our neighbors, to find common ground, to appeal to their good intentions and to create a country of more by re-electing Barack Obama president of the United States," he said.

If Day 2 of the Democrats' convention was all about grabbing some of Clinton's star power, opening day was designed to portray Obama as someone who understands the problems of ordinary people.

Michelle Obama played those cards with force in a speech declaring that after four years as president, her husband is still the man who drove a rust-bucket on early dates, rescued a coffee table from the trash and knows the struggles of everyday Americans because he lived them in full.

"I have seen firsthand that being president doesn't change who you are. No, it reveals who you are," the first lady said to lusty cheers Tuesday night in a deeply personal, yet unmistakably political testimonial.

Mrs. Obama didn't mention Romney in her remarks. But there was no mistaking the contrast she was drawing when she laid out certain values, "that how hard you work matters more than how much you make, that helping others means more than just getting ahead yourself."

Polling gives Obama a consistent advantage over Romney as the more empathetic and in-touch leader. But the sputtering economy is the topmost voter concern and Obama's highest mountain to climb after more than 42 months of unemployment surpassing 8 percent, the longest such stretch since the end of World War II.

No president since the Great Depression has been re-elected with joblessness so high.

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