Campaigning with President Obama for the first time, former President Bill Clinton said Sunday night the economy is recovering faster than expected under Mr. Obama but that “full employment” could still be years away.
“If you go back 500 years, whenever a country’s financial system collapses, it takes between five and 10 years to get back to full employment,” Mr. Clinton told supporters at a fundraiser at the home of former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe in McLean. By that standard, he said, Mr. Obama “is beating the clock, not behind it.”
Mr. Obama told the crowd, “You guys get two presidents for one, which is a pretty good deal.”
The event, Mr. Obama’s 128th fundraiser for his re-election, was expected to raise about $3 million for the Democrats. About 500 supporters at the reception paid for tickets that started at $1,000, and about 80 people paid $20,000 each for a dinner later.
Mr. Clinton has grown closer to Mr. Obama since the 2008 Democratic primary, in which his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, fought a tense campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination against Mr. Obama.
Now that Mrs. Clinton is serving as his secretary of state, Mr. Obama told supporters Sunday, “Hillary and I have spent the last 3½ years cleaning up after other folks’ messes.”
Mr. Obama has been reminding audiences of the problems he says he inherited from former President George W. Bush and seeking to link presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney to Mr. Bush’s policies.
On Thursday, Vice President Joseph R. Biden said Mr. Romney is naive on foreign policy and would risk sending American troops into to war again unnecessarily. The Obama campaign also is claiming that Mr. Romney wouldn’t have had the guts to go after Osama bin Laden.
Mr. Clinton criticized Mr. Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, calling him “an opponent who basically wants to do what they did before — on steroids.”
Mr. Obama mocked Mr. Romney for saying that Russia, not al Qaeda, is the biggest geopolitical enemy of the U.S.
“I didn’t know we were back in 1975,” Mr. Obama said.
The president also spoke of social debates occurring across the country, saying that “you know something about that in Virginia,” and commenting about “nonsense that’s been going on.” It was an apparent reference to a law signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell in March requiring a woman seeking an abortion to undergo an abdominal ultrasound first.
Such comity between Mr. Obama and Mr. Clinton didn’t always exist, though.
In 2008, some Obama supporters accused Mr. Clinton — once fondly hailed in black Democratic circles as the first black president — of racial condescension for downplaying some of Mr. Obama’s early victories in the 2008 Democratic primary race, by noting that Jesse Jackson had won in some of those same states, too.
But Democrats say that Sunday’s Obama-Clinton event shows that those differences, inevitably rubbed raw in the long primary fight that ensued, have been decisively put in the past and give their party an advantage over Mr. Romney, coming off a primary fight that also was longer than expected.
“It makes absolutely clear that, to the extent that there were different wings of the Democratic Party, there is now one wing of the Democratic Party,” said Chris Lehane, a Clinton backer. “And it’s the president’s party.”
They also note that Republicans are reluctant to mention their last incumbent president or be seen as too close to Mr. Bush.
“There is no better Democratic ally than President Clinton,” said Jim Messina, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager.
• This article was based in part on wire service reports.