CHARLOTTE, North Carolina, United States (UPDATED) - Bill Clinton asked American voters on Wednesday, September 5 (Thursday, September 6 in Manila), to believe that Barack Obama had brought them to the verge of renewed prosperity and deserved to finish the job during four more years.
Lending his signature dazzle to Obama's re-election campaign, the two-term former president told the Democratic convention that he believed "with all my heart" that the 44th President had led a remarkable, if incomplete, revival.
Speaking directly to an electorate that remains deeply split with fewer that nine weeks to go until the November election he argued that Obama had overcome a formidable array of challenges.
"No president, no president -- not me or any of my predecessors, no one could have fully repaired all the damage he found in just four years.
"He has laid the foundations for a new modern successful economy of shared prosperity and if you ever need the president's contract: You will feel it. You will feel it folks," said Clinton, his distinctive drawl made hoarser still by a scratchy throat.
"Folks, whether the American people believe what I said or not may be the whole election, I just want you to know that I believe it," Clinton said, his voice faltering slightly, "with all my heart I believe it."
After holding 15,000 of the Democratic faithful in Charlotte, North Carolina enthralled for over 45 minutes, Clinton was joined on stage by a smiling and energized Obama, leading to frenzied applause.
The Democratic standard bearers, once estranged by intra-party politics, united in an on-stage embrace that was symbolic of renewed joint purpose to defeat their Republican rivals on November 6.
Obama will address the convention on Thursday at the same venue.
The campaign cancelled plans for the president to give his nomination speech Thursday in a vast outdoor American football stadium, in which they had hoped to recreate the celebratory atmosphere of his 2008 convention address.
Officials said they could not risk thunder and lightning disrupting the event, Obama's best unfiltered chance to take his case to voters before the November 6 election, and moved the big set piece inside.
Setting the context for that address, Clinton, president between 1993 and 2001, offered a point-by-point rebuttal of the policies of Obama's rival Mitt Romney.
He decried the Republican's creation of an "alternative universe," to laughs.
"The most important question is, what kind of country do you want to live in?" he asked.
"If you want a you're-on-your-own, winner-take-all society, you should support the Republican ticket.
Clinton also tried to give some empirical weight to the great ideological tussle over economic policy that has come to define this election cycle.
"Well, since 1961, for 52 years now, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats, 24. In those 52 years, our private economy has produced 66 million private sector jobs.
"So what's the job score? Republicans, 24 million; Democrats, 42," he said to cheers.
Clinton, as popular now as when he was inaugurated in 1993 -- he hit 66 percent approval in a recent CNN poll -- retains a hold over American voters.
His economic pitch was seen as a hard sell to many Americans still feeling the effects of the "Great Recession," but Democrats said he was just the man to appeal to white, working-class men in swing states.
"He's able to reach out with his charisma to people who will not listen to President Barack Obama if for no other reason than his color," Jonice Crawford Butler, a Democratic volunteer in her 60s from Michigan, told AFP.
National polls put the rivals neck-and-neck, but a closer inspection of swing states reveals that Romney has his work cut out, especially as the bounce he was hoping for from last week's Republican convention has failed to materialize.
AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB
Earlier Clinton formally nominated Obama as the Democratic Party's presidential candidate.
"I want to nominate a man who's cool on the outside -- but who burns for America on the inside."
"I want a man who believes with no doubt that we can build a new American Dream economy," Clinton said.
"After last night, I want a man who had the good sense to marry Michelle Obama," Clinton joked, drawing cheers and smiles from the First Lady watching from a box the night after her own rousing convention speech.
In a roll call Democrats from all 50 states one-by-one announced their support for Obama, officially handing him the party nomination. - Andrew Beatty, Agence France-Presse