Democratic Convention: Bill Clinton to turn on the charm as he uses prime time television slot to urge voters to back Barack Obama


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The Independent US

On Monday, Jimmy Carter warmed the cockles of the party faithful. Tonight, it's the turn of Bill Clinton to talk up the upstanding young Democrat who now occupies the oval-shaped office where he used to work.

The ghosts of Presidents past are stalking this Democratic Convention in Charlotte, but the shadows they cast are very different. Carter, 85, spoke via video link in an untelevised early-evening slot. Clinton, by contrast, is the night’s big draw.

You don’t have to be a genius to work out why. Carter, who Team Romney have repeatedly compared to Obama in recent weeks, is these days a fuddy symbol of 70s-era socialism. But Clinton still boasts genuine star-power.

Party hacks aren’t the only ones who still swoon at the sight of the saxophone-playing kid from Little Rock. Polls nowadays put his national approval rating at 66 percent, a figure that includes a comfortable majority of independent voters who will decide this election.

“We still call it the Clinton Touch,” said Jean Wallis, a delegate from “Bubba’s” native Arkansas. “When he walks into a room, the place just lights up. Men, women, Republican, Democrat, he’ll charm them all.”

Charm is certainly on the cards tonight, when Clinton is due to become the first ever ex-President to nominate a sitting one for his party’s re-election ticket.  His speech, on prime time television, forms part of an important sales pitch.

Clinton was expected to argue that the Romney ticket offers a repeat of economic policies that “got us in trouble in the first place.” In a campaign video, he recently declared: "President Obama has a plan to rebuild America from the ground up. It only works if there is a strong middle class. That's what happened when I was president. We need to keep going.”

Convention organisers aren’t entirely relaxed about the speech, of course. Obama and Clinton have a complex relationship, a legacy of Obama’s bruising 2008 battle with Hillary Clinton. And they come from divergent Democratic traditions: Bill achieved power by arguing that big government was “dead.” Barack believes in government. But in this crucial election moment, they both hope the Clinton Touch endures.