CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — President Barack Obama inherited a wreck of an economy, “put a floor under the crash” and laid the foundation for millions of good new jobs, former President Bill Clinton declared Wednesday night in a Democratic National Convention appeal aimed at millions of hard-pressed Americans yet to decide how to vote.
“If you want a you’re-on-your-own, winner-take-all society, you should support the Republican ticket,” Clinton said. “If you want a country of shared prosperity and shared responsibility — a we’re-all-in-this-together society — you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.”
Obama’s high command released the remarks before Clinton’s appearance as they struggled to bury the news of an embarrassing retreat on the party platform.
Under criticism from Republican challenger Mitt Romney, they abruptly rewrote the day-old document to insert a reference to God and to declare that Jerusalem “is and will remain the capital of Israel.” Some delegates objected loudly, but Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, presiding in the largely-empty hall, ruled them outvoted. White House aides said Obama had personally ordered the changes.
The episode was an unwanted intrusion for Democratic officials, who scripted the evening to showcase Clinton, popular 12 years after he left office with the budget in balance and now their unofficial ambassador-in-chief to anxious voters in a tough economy.
“In Tampa the Republican argument against the president’s re-election was pretty simple: ‘We left him a total mess, he hasn’t finished cleaning it up yet, so fire him and put us back in,’” Clinton said in advance excerpts.
“I like the argument for President Obama’s re-election a lot better. He inherited a deeply damaged economy, put a floor under the crash, began the long hard road to recovery and laid the foundation for a more modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses, and lots of new wealth for the innovators.”
Obama arrived in his convention city earlier in the day. His formal nomination to a second term in office followed Clinton’s speech on the evening program, and his acceptance speech will mark the convention finale on Thursday night.
On an unsettled convention day, aides also scrapped plans for the president to speak to a huge crowd in a 74,000 seat football stadium, citing the threat of bad weather in a city that has been pelted by heavy downpours in recent days.
“We can’t do anything about the rain. The important thing is the speech,” said Washington Rey, a delegate from Sumter, S.C.
That and the eight-week general election campaign about to begin between Obama and Republican challenger Romney, who spent his second straight day in Vermont preparing for this fall’s debates with Obama.
In a tight race for the White House and with control of the Senate at stake, Democrats signaled unmistakable concern about the growing financial disadvantage they confront. Officials said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was Obama’s first White House chief of staff, was resigning as national co-chair of the president’s campaign to help raise money for a super PAC that supports the his re-election.
Unlike candidates, outside groups can solicit donations of unlimited size from donors. At the same time, federal law bars coordination with the campaigns.
Clinton’s speech marked the seventh convention in a row he has spoken to party delegates, and the latest twist in a relationship with Obama that has veered from frosty to friendly. The two men clashed in 2012, when Obama outran Hillary Rodham Clinton’s wife for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Clinton, then a New York senator, now Obama’s Secretary of State, was in East Timor as the party met half a world away. She made a cameo appearance on the huge screens inside the Time Warner Cable Arena, though, turning up in a video that celebrated the 12 Democratic women senators currently in office.
Whatever the past differences between presidents current and past, Obama and his top aides looked to Clinton as the man best able to vouch for him when it comes to the economy, his largest impediment to re-election.
As a group, white men favor Romney over Obama, according to numerous polls, but a Gallup survey taken in July showed 63 percent of them view the former president favorably, to 32 percent who see him in unfavorable terms.
White voters without college degrees preferred Clinton’s wife, Hillary, over Obama in during their epic battle for the presidential nomination in 2008. They now prefer Romney over the president by more than 20 percentage points, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll published last month, yet other surveys show they give high favorability to Clinton.
Republicans have suddenly discovered a lot to like about Clinton — a man they impeached in late 1998 when they ran the House and he sat in the Oval Office.
Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan made no mention of those unpleasantries when he told a campaign audience in Iowa, “Under President Clinton we got welfare reform. President Obama is rolling back welfare reform.”
“President Clinton worked with Republicans in Congress to have a budget agreement to cut spending. President Obama, a gusher of new spending.”
Independent fact checkers have repeatedly debunked the claim about Obama’s welfare proposals, often repeated in Republican television ads. Nor did the Wisconsin lawmaker mention that under a balanced budget compromise with Clinton to rein in federal spending, Republicans agreed to create a new benefit program that provides health care for lower-income children and others ineligible for Medicaid.
Party leaders did their best to draw as little attention as possible to the change in the platform, making the alternation even before the prayer that opened the second night of the convention.
The changes came after the Republicans criticized an earlier decision to strip the word “God” from the party’s official platform.
Romney said that “suggests a party that is increasingly out of touch with the mainstream of the American people. … I think this party is veering further and further away into an extreme wing that Americans don’t recognize.”
As for Israel, Romney had declared in a summertime trip there that Jerusalem was the country’s capital. U.S. policy for years has held that the city’s status is a matter for negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis, and Democrats said Romney was pandering to Jewish voters in the United States with his statement.
In the Democrats’ platform change on the subject, the Jerusalem language from their 2008 platform was added to this year’s version.
The switch puts the platform in line with what advisers say is the president’s personal view, if not the policy of his administration. “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel,” it says. “The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.”
In more direct campaign matters, money is a constant concern for Obama’s team, a turnabout from four years ago when their candidate vastly outspent Republican opponent John McCain.
Four years later, Romney is outraising Obama handily, and has pulled in more than $100 million three months in a row.
Outside groups eager to turn Obama out of power are pouring money into television advertising in battleground states at a pace that Priorities Action USA, the sole Democratic super PAC, cannot match.
Associated Press writers Jennifer Agiesta and Jack Gillum in Washington, Kasie Hunt in Vermont, Thomas Beaumont and Steve Peoples in Iowa and Ken Thomas, Matt Michaels and Jim Kuhnhenn in Charlotte contributed.
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