LAS VEGAS — Former President Bill Clinton’s popularity is peaking — and just in time to give Democrats an election-year boost.

Clinton is starring in a new TV ad that promotes President Barack Obama’s re-election, saying he’s the "clear choice" over his GOP challenger Mitt Romney.

"This election to me is about which candidate is more likely to return us to full employment," Clinton says in the ad, where he speaks directly into the camera.

The ad, released Thursday, is the first time Obama is using Clinton in a 2012 campaign commercial, capitalizing on the former president’s cross-over appeal. The 30-second spot is airing in eight battleground states – Nevada, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Iowa and Colorado.

A recent Gallup poll in June found Clinton’s popularity matching his record high of 66 percent among Americans surveyed nationwide. Clinton first enjoyed a 66 percent favorability rating when he was inaugurated in January of 1993 as the man from Hope, Arkansas, who defeated a sitting GOP president, George H.W. Bush. Clinton served two, four-year terms.

Clinton, whose presidential library is in Little Rock, Ark., where he served as governor of Arkansas until his election as president, enjoys broad support across the board — from most Democrats, two-thirds of independents and even about four out of 10 Republicans, Gallup found.

In the new ad, Clinton criticized Republicans — without using Romney’s name — for wanting to return to GOP policies he said helped tanked the economy before Obama took office in 2009.

"The Republican plan is to cut more taxes on upper income people and go back to deregulation," Clinton says. "That’s what got us in trouble in the first place."

Clinton said he agrees with Obama’s governing philosophy of helping the middle class, something the former president said he did with much economic success during the 1990s.

"President Obama has a plan to rebuild America from the ground up, investing in innovation, education and job training," Clinton says in the ad. "It only works if there is a strong middle class. That’s what happened when I was president. We need to keep going with his plan."

Four years ago, Clinton and his wife helped Obama win the White House after the former U.S. senator from Illinois defeated Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. Mrs. Clinton is now secretary of state while the former president is reprising his role as promoter-in-chief for Obama. Clinton is scheduled to introduce Obama at the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., too.


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