Barack Obama deploys the Democrats' 'secret weapon' again as Clinton rolls back years

Former President has key role to play in bid to woo Middle America to his party's cause
  • @dusborne

"Let me say this…" "Let me just walk you through this…" These were the admonitions that former President Bill Clinton uttered over and over as he rallied a crowd of 2,400 in a Miami-area university on Tuesday evening embracing the role first conferred on him at the Democratic Convention last week: he is now Explainer-in-Chief.

It was not the barnstorming performance that garnered such fulsome reviews in Charlotte. Mr Clinton was speaking without a teleprompter or even a prepared speech. He did have notes and every now and then he would pop his reading glasses back on to share some important statistic.

In 40 minutes devoted in part to exhorting his mostly student audience to vote and get friends out to vote as well as to defending the record of President Barack Obama and the case for his re-election, Mr Clinton had numbers aplenty – how many jobs were lost under Mr Obama's predecessor, the savings for retirees because of Obamacare and the eased terms of repayment students could look forward to under Mr Obama's student-loan programme.

This is the Clinton Primer – complicated, certainly, but set out with a passion that removes the risk of tedium – on why Mr Obama has done well and why the Republican alternative would be a disaster. He was due to deliver it again at a rally in Orlando last night and is expected to be deployed several more times before election day.

"We would love to have him out there as much as his schedule allows," Jen Psaki, a campaign spokeswoman, said. "The pitch he can make for why the President is the right person to lead the country and stand up for the middle class over the next four years has broad appeal." Messrs Clinton and Obama are likely to appear together in the final stretch of the campaign (on condition the 42nd president knows not to overshadow the 44th).

Mr Clinton noted that it was 20 years since he first fought for the White House. Veterans of American elections were struck by the echoes from 1992. When he finished speaking, he resisted being ushered off stage and plunged, as he always used to, into the crowd to shake hands. All that was missing was Fleetwood Mac on the PA system.

Unexpected, on the other hand, was the contribution from another Democrat ex-president, Jimmy Carter. Speaking at the human-rights foundation in Atlanta that bears his name, he excoriated the recent US Supreme Court ruling that allows outside interests to spend without limit to try to influence the outcome in November.

The electoral system is now "shot through with corruption," he said. "We have one of the worst election processes in the world right in the United States of America, and it's almost entirely because of the excessive influx of money."

In his speech, Mr Clinton mentioned Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee only once. But his charges against his party were sharp. Saying it had a "militant, bitter anti-government" philosophy, he concluded: "I believe with all my heart that a society that basically says, 'You're on your own' is never going to be as successful in a highly competitive and interdependent world as a society that says 'we don't have a personal to wedge, we're all in this together'."