CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Riding his own personal high in the polls, former President Bill Clinton gave his stamp of approval Wednesday to a second term for President Obama.
"I want to nominate a man who is cool on the outside but who burns for America on the inside," Clinton said. "I want Barack Obama to be the next president of the United States."
The crowd that filled the Time Warner Cable Arena to the rafters cheered loudly for Clinton, an Arkansas native who Democrats nominated for president 20 years ago.
The Arkansas delegation was on its feet in the back of the hall clapping and waving signs that read "Middle Class First."
"President Clinton painted a realistic and clear picture of what the next four years could look like. In his own way, Clinton enveloped the whole hall in warmth and humor," said Tyler Clark, a delegate from Fayetteville.
Four years ago, Clinton was less enthusiastic about Obama, who defeated his wife, Hillary, for the Democratic presidential nomination. This time he offered a full-throated endorsement, ending his address to thunderous applause.
"We champion the cause for which our founders pledged their lives, their futures, their sacred honor – to form a more perfect union. If that’s what you believe, if that’s what you want, we have to re-elect President Barack Obama," he said.
The cheers grew louder as Obama joined him on stage. The two embraced and then waved to the crowd as Tom Petty’s "Won’t Back Down" blared in the arena.
"Four more years," the delegates cheered.
The convention then turned to the official nominating roll call with Arkansas casting its 55 votes for Obama.
Clinton was relaxed as he spoke and drew in the crowd who listened intently to his wonky words, cheered his partisan red meat and laughed at his quick wit.
He answered Republican charges that Obama has failed to deliver a return to prosperity offering up a series of examples of economic accomplishments while acknowledging that many are still struggling.
"President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did. No president – not me or any of my predecessors - could have repaired all the damage in just four years," Clinton said. "But conditions are improving and if you’ll renew the President’s contract you will feel it. I believe that with all my heart."
Beyond the economy, Clinton defended Obama’s signature health care reform law as well as his positions on welfare, Medicare and Medicaid.
On health care, Clinton pointed to an expansion of coverage to young people, an increase in preventive care services for the elderly, and protection for those with pre-existing conditions.
Clinton also defended the Democrat plans for Medicare and Medicaid, and attacked Republicans for seeking to cut the entitlement programs.
And, he said that Obama wanted to get more welfare recipients working.
"The claim that President Obama weakened welfare reform’s work requirements is just not true," Clinton said.
Beyond the specifics, Clinton said that the election comes down to the kind of world Americans want to have.
"You have to decide what kind of country you want to live in. If you want a country of shared opportunities and shared responsibilities – a ‘we’re all in it together’ society, you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden," Clinton said.
Clinton arrived in Charlotte at his most popular, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted prior to the Republican National Convention last week.
His favorable rating is at 69 percent, surpassing his previous record of 66 percent recorded this July and once before in 1993.
The poll also found Clinton drawing positive ratings from women, nonwhites, young voters and independents – all key demographics Obama will need to win re-election this November.