Clinton back to add a bit of charisma to Democrat campaign

Like an old champion fighter on the comeback trail, Bill Clinton returned to the fray of the US election campaign yesterday ­ just seven weeks after the emergency heart surgery that threatened to sideline the most effective campaigner in American politics.

Up to 20,000 roaring and cheering supporters packed into the streets around Love Park in the centre of Philadelphia to see a much thinner and somewhat gaunt Mr Clinton add some charisma and political weight to John Kerry's campaign just a week before voters go to the polls.

Mr Clinton's performance may have been but a shadow of the bravura display he delivered at the Democratic convention in Boston this summer but his mere presence on the campaign trail delighted the crowds who screamed as he and Mr Kerry appeared on the stage.

"If that's not good for my heart I don't know what is," beamed Mr Clinton, putting his hand to his chest. He added: "From time to time I've been called the 'Comeback Kid'. In eight days, John Kerry is going to make America the Comeback Country."

With national polls showing Mr Kerry and George Bush neck and neck, the Massachusetts senator had turned to Mr Clinton to help appeal to undecided voters not just here in the battleground state of Pennsylvania but to that slim and dwindling demographic across the nation. He willingly accepted.

"I want to do this," Mr Clinton told ABC television ahead of yesterday's rally. "Senator Kerry asked me to do it. And I want to do it ... because it's close, and because I think it's important, and because the differences between the two candidates and the courses they will pursue in the next four years are so profound."

It was less than two months ago that Mr Clinton was forced to undergo quadruple bypass surgery. Had it not have been for that unforeseen setback the former president would have been a much more regular fixture on the campaign trail this year, unlike in 2000, when he was deliberately sidelined by Al Gore, who was worried his association with Monica Lewinsky would tarnish the campaign.

And while it was obvious yesterday that Mr Clinton was restraining himself, it was equally clear he had lost neither his unequalled ability to connect with a crowd or to deliver the sort of succinct and powerful verbal punch that the Kerry campaign has often lacked this summer.

"You've got clear choice between two strong men of clear convictions, of different philosophies and different choices [which will have] very different consequences for the state, the nation and the world," he declared. "The other side is trying to scare the undecided voters away from John Kerry. You better vote for the person who wants you to think and hope."

Having been on the back foot for several weeks, new polls suggest Mr Kerry may have edged slightly ahead of Mr Bush in the big three battleground states of Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania. A Zogby poll yesterday gave Mr Kerry a 47-45 lead in Pennsylvania.

Strategists from the Kerry campaign believe Mr Clinton's presence could give them a boost with undecided voters: a poll commissioned by the Wall Street Journal gave him a 48 per cent positive rating, higher than either Mr Kerry or Mr Bush. His popularity is even higher among black voters and he has long been popular in the Philadelphia suburbs where he broke the Republican dominance in 1992.

But they were also counting on Mr Clinton's presence to remind voters of the boom years of the Nineties when unemployment was lower and the government had a surplus not a deficit. Mr Kerry was quick to claim America had been in a better economic situation when Mr Clinton was president.

He was also quick to praise the enthusiasm of Mr Clinton, whose recuperation has reportedly been slower than he and doctors had hoped. "He said he was going to do his darndest to get back before the end of the campaign," said Mr Kerry.

After yesterday's appearance Mr Clinton was due to appear at a function in Miami, Florida. Later today, he is due to appear at an event in Florida's Broward County, scene of the most heated controversy in 2000.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all