- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 2, 2008

The day after Sen. John McCain used Bill Clinton‘s words to bolster his own argument, the former president campaigned for Sen. Barack Obama for the first time, telling voters in Florida the Democrat is no doubt the “better” choice for America.

At two rallies that drew overflow crowds, Mr. Clinton laid out a case for his wife’s one-time rival for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“I think you know when you vote for Barack Obama you’re not just voting for him. You’re voting for yourselves, your dreams, the children you have or you hope to have, and everything you want America to be in the 21st century,” he said in his first public speech for the Democratic nominee since the party convention in August.

“This is our election. This is our country, and we are going to take it back and move it forward,” Mr. Clinton said in Orlando.

Mr. McCain, the Republican nominee, on Tuesday released an ad featuring Mr. Clinton as someone who “knows who is responsible” for the economic crisis.

“I think the responsibility that the Democrats have may rest more in resisting any efforts by Republicans in the Congress or by me when I was president to put some standards and tighten up a little on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” Mr. Clinton says in the ad, which concludes with a narrator agreeing, “You’re right, Mr. President. It didn’t have to happen.”

For weeks pundits have parsed Mr. Clinton’s words about the Republican ticket, taking every statement that was not excoriating as praise. For example, in a CNBC interview last week, he said he would not say anything bad about Mr. McCain, who he thinks is a “great man.” He also said it is a mistake to underestimate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, calling the vice-presidential nominee “instinctively effective” and saying she has a “compelling story.”

But Wednesday, he made it clear whom he prefers and why, without mentioning either Republican by name.

Mr. Clinton said the next president will face massive domestic challenges to worry about.

He said while Mr. Obama has talked a lot about “how we ought to relate to the world,” his travel should probably be limited his first year in office if elected.

“He is going to have to be really focused on fixing this economy,” Mr. Clinton said. “That means that the role of the vice president in repairing quickly our relations in the rest of the world will be relatively more important in the first two years of the next presidency … [and] there is nobody in the entire United States Senate that understands the political, the economic, and the security challenges and opportunities of the whole rest of the world better than Joe Biden does. He is a superb choice.”

The former president urged voters to convince their friends to vote for the Obama-Biden ticket.

“You do not have to say one bad word about Senator Obama’s opponent; you just have to go out and tell them the truth: The job of the next president is to rebuild the American dream, repair the financial system, restore America’s leadership,” Mr. Clinton said.

“On those issues, the Obama-Biden ticket, and particular Senator Obama, have a better philosophy, better answers, better understanding, better advisers, a better vice-presidential candidate, and a better plan for Florida,” he said, on a day where two new polls of Florida voters have Mr. Obama leading Mr. McCain.

Mr. Clinton adopted a stump speech very similar to how he used to campaign for his wife, enumerating several specific points for why he thinks Mr. Obama is superior.

But in a marked contrast to his rallies in Iowa, he talked very little about himself other than a reference to the strength of the economy when he handed the White House keys to George W. Bush in 2001.

Mr. Clinton said he was there in Florida “because Hillary sent me,” a reference to Mrs. Clinton’s program of getting her 18 million Democratic primary voters to campaign for Mr. Obama. He also gave a subtle nod to Mrs. Clinton’s historic candidacy, saying that a president “does his best, and someday, I hope, her very best.”

The line received big cheers.

There was no direct appeal for unity, as many of the primary season’s wounds have healed, though he began his remarks by saying he was there, “because none of us worked all that hard all through this year to see this election come to naught.”

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