- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Democrats rushed to clean up a party platform mess Wednesday and moved to officially re-nominate President Obama for a second term in office as his predecessor, former President Bill Clinton, said voters this year must choose between Republicans’ “winner-take-all” vision of success and his own party’s “shared prosperity.”

Mr. Clinton, who left office amid budget surpluses and a roaring economy, delivered a point-by-point rebuttal to Republicans’ convention last week in Tampa, mixing deep policy talk with one-liners that had delegates here roaring with laughter.

Looking older but speaking with passion and the same thumb-gestures that made him ripe for caricature during his time in office, the former president harkened back to a Republican Party he said he used to be able to work with, but which he said has since become riven by a desire for conflict rather than cooperation.

Mr. Clinton also said it was impossible for any president in a single term to “repair all the damage” that Mr. Obama found when he took office, but said he’s laid the groundwork for a recovery. He said that’s what this year’s election comes down to.

“The most important question is, what kind of country do you want to live in?” Mr. Clinton said. “If you want a winner-take-all, you’re-on-your-own society, you should support the Republican ticket. 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.”

Mr. Obama himself arrived in Charlotte Wednesday afternoon and prepared for his Thursday speech accepting his party’s nomination.

He had been slated to speak at Bank of America Stadium, in front of more than 65,000 cheering supporters, much as he did four years ago to a stadium audience in Denver. But his campaign on Wednesday canceled the stadium and said Thursday’s speeches will take place in the much smaller arena where the convention met on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The party blamed the chances of thunderstorms, and said it would hold a conference call with those who’d gotten tickets for the stadium but would now be shut out.

Republicans, though, said the president was afraid he wouldn’t be able to fill the stadium, which they said highlighted the gap in enthusiasm for Mr. Obama compared to 2008, when he filled the stadium in Denver.

Democrats also scrambled to recover after they adopted a platform earlier this week that excluded language declaring U.S. support for Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and dropped a mention of God that had been in previous platforms.

On Wednesday they held a voice vote trying to add Jerusalem and God provisions back in — but had to hold the vote several times before the “Yes” votes clearly out-shouted the “No” votes.

The White House had pushed to add the language back in after platform became a distraction from their message.

Democrats are desperate to frame this year’s election as a choice between candidates rather than a referendum on Mr. Obama’s stewardship of the economy, and have repeatedly turned to social issues to try to peel black, Hispanic and women voters away from the GOP.

On Wednesday Sandra Fluke, the woman who Republicans denied a chance to testify to Congress on her support for Mr. Obama’s contraceptive policy, told the convention Mr. Romney “wont stand up to the slurs, or to any of the extreme, bigoted views in his own party.”

But it was Mr. Clinton, the man who led Democrats back to the White House in the 1990s, who was left the task of explaining the sluggish economy under Mr. Obama.

“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-balances economy,” Mr. Clinton said in a speech that, in typical Clinton fashion, ran more than 20 minutes past his allotted time.

Mr. Clinton laid out math he said showed that over the last half-century, Democrats and Republicans have held the White House for about the same number of years, but Democrats lead in job-creation, 42 million to 24 million.

“It turns out that advancing economic opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics,” he said, drawing repeated shouts of “We love you Bill!” from delegates.

Mr. Clinton also looked past Mr. Obama’s legislative agenda such as health care and the stimulus, which he passed almost exclusively on Democratic votes, and said the president is committed to cooperation. He pointed to Mr. Obama’s openness to working with former rivals, including Vice President Joseph R. Biden.

“Heck, he even appointed Hillary,” Mr. Clinton said, pointing to his wife, who after losing to Mr. Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary accepted a role as his secretary of state.

Republicans said inviting Mr. Clinton to speak was a danger for Democrats, arguing he would hurt Mr. Obama by highlighting the differences between the two.

“My guess is, we’ll get a great rendition of how good things were in the 1990s but we’re not going to hear much about how things have been in the last four years,” Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan said as he campaigned in Iowa.

For his part Mr. Romney, the GOP’s nominee, remained holed up in Vermont prepping for the series of October debates — the next major set pieces in the presidential campaign.

He and Mr. Obama are running about even in national polls, though the president is ahead in polling in nearly every battleground state.

At their convention, Democrats were poised to nominate Mr. Obama unanimously, but the platform flap underscored divisions within his party that have dampened the enthusiasm that powered him to victory in 2008.

Even some top lawmakers are wary of appearing near him.

On Wednesday, Democrats highlighted their 12 female U.S. senators — but only nine of them showed. Among the three absent lawmakers was Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Missouri Democrat who is seeking re-election and is trying to distance herself from Mr. Obama after being a chief surrogate for him in 2008.

In a campaign marked by decidedly personal barbs, Democrats lobbed some stiff attacks at Mr. Romney, including highlighting employees who were laid off after Bain Capital — Mr. Romney’s former company — took over their plant.

Mitt Romney once said, ‘I like being able to fire people.’ Well I can tell you from personal experience, he does,” said Randy Johnson, one of three workers who said Bain Capital cost him his job.

He and the other workers said they understand businesses failing, but said they faulted Mr. Romney for earning profits while shutting plants down.