Obama banks on Bill Clinton to clinch close states

Associated Press Modified: November 3, 2012 at 7:45 am •  Published: November 3, 2012
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PALM BAY, Fla. (AP) — Republican Mitt Romney has millionaire backers, a huge staff and years of campaign experience, which may be enough to win the White House. President Barack Obama has one asset Romney can't match, however: Bill Clinton.

The former president is sprinting through battleground states, delivering more speeches than Obama himself and, arguably, carrying much of the president's re-election hopes on his 66-year-old shoulders.

There's nothing secret about this campaign weapon. If it's a competitive state, Clinton is there — and there and there — picking apart Romney's proposals in the folksy yet detailed style he unleashed at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C. Many party activists left there wondering why Obama can't make his own case as compellingly.

Friday was typical for Clinton. He made five stops in Florida, stretching from Palm Beach in the southeast to Fort Myers on the Gulf Coast to Tallahassee in the panhandle.

Romney had hoped to lock down the mega-swing state long ago. But he will return Monday because of its uncertainty.

Clinton, his raspy voice hoarser than usual, mixed nostalgia with lawyerly dissections when criticizing Romney's tax-cut plans in Palm Bay, the day's second stop, south of Cape Canaveral.

"I don't understand how people like me could sleep at night taking another tax cut, and taking it away from you," he said to cheers from several hundred people, who clearly did not resent his post-presidential wealth.

After shucking his suit jacket and loosening his orange tie under a brilliant midday sun, Clinton rattled off statistics about recent slowdowns in the growth of health care costs, and benefits of Obama's health law. "That is what Mr. Romney wants to repeal," he said.

"Bring it home, Bill" a woman shouted.

At every stop, Clinton praises Obama effusively, but he also reminds voters of his own days in office.

"I am the only living former president that ever gave you a budget surplus," he said in Palm Bay. Obama's policies, he adds, are much more in line with his than are Romney's.

Obama amplifies Clinton's boasts, knowing they give credence to the endorsements. In one Ohio stop Friday, Obama named Clinton four times.

"For eight years we had a president who shared our beliefs, and his name was Bill Clinton," Obama said. "His economic plan asked the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more so we could reduce our deficit and invest in the skills and ideas of our people." Romney opposed that plan, Obama said, and his math "was just as bad back then as it was today."

The white-haired Clinton looks drawn and tired at times, and he makes a few flubs. He apologized this week for saluting Pennsylvania when he happened to be in Ohio.



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