Bill Clinton will take the stage in Charlotte tonight as perhaps the best-liked political figure in America, the owner of a 66 percent favorable rating – a level of popularity he last enjoyed during his presidential honeymoon in 1993. It will be a triumphant moment for Clinton, a powerful affirmation that his latest improbable political comeback is complete.
When Democrats last convened four years ago, Clinton got his turn in the spotlight, but the party he spoke to had very mixed feelings about him and his legacy. Sure, he had his share of diehard loyalists, but Democrats had just rejected his wife in favor of Barack Obama, who had pitched his candidacy as an exciting break from the timid incrementalism of the Clintons and who hadsought to minimize the historical importance of Bill’s White House years. There was also lingering bitterness from Obama supporters about the way Clinton had conducted himself during the primaries, with accusations that he’d had engaged in racial politics.
Back then, Clinton’s favorable number fell under 50 percent in some polls. But his rehabilitation these past four years has been so thorough that Obama now sees Clinton as key to his reelection hopes. The current president has spent the last year cultivating him, seeking his counsel in private, singing his praises in public, and holding up the Clinton presidency as a model for his own. With the country going through something of a Clinton renaissance, Obama stands to benefit when the former president vouches for him, which is why Clinton will be handed a big chunk of the 10:00 hour tonight to formally nominate Obama for a second term.
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