Bill Clinton’s “magisterial” speech to the Democratic National Convention will only help Barack Obama if the president follows suit with his nomination acceptance speech on Thursday, pollster Doug Schoen tells Newsmax.
Otherwise, the former commander in chief’s words will be remembered as just another convention address by the time November 6 comes along – if it’s remembered at all, he added.
Schoen was full of praise for Clinton’s speech, which has received wide praise from pundits across the political divide. It was a great speech, extraordinary, bipartisan,” he said. “It pointed to a way forward and the contrast between the two presidential candidates without demonizing Mitt Romney.
Schoen said the 66-year-old former president “was trying to suggest an alternative approach” to politics, which Obama would do well to follow.
“He went out of his way to praise George W. Bush, making it clear that this is not a point-finger election. It was a magisterial speech that represented the best of American politics.”
But Schoen said Obama must now build on the spirit of his predecessor’s words. “If he goes back to his confrontational, class-warfare, demonization, rich-against-poor style of politics, that will be totally counter-productive.
“If he continues with policies that are divisive, then it won’t have had any real impact.”
During the address, Clinton said Obama should not be blamed for the poor economy he inherited, and said he had set the foundations for strong growth.
“Listen to me now,” said Clinton. “No president – not me, not any of my predecessors – could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years.”
Frequently departing from his prepared remarks, Clinton painted Obama as a reasonable man prevented from creating more jobs and reducing the budget deficit by a Republican Party in the grip of its right wing.
If Americans “renew the president’s contract,” the economy will get better “and you will feel it,” he said.
“Folks, whether the American people believe what I just said or not may be the whole election. I just want you to know I believe it. With all my heart I believe it.
Clinton received roaring applause from thousands of Democrats who jammed the convention hall, The cheers grew louder when Obama came on stage after Clinton's speech. Clinton bowed to the president and gave him a bear hug.
Clinton claimed that in 52 years, Democratic presidents have generated more job growth than Republicans by 42 million to 24 million.
"When President Barack Obama took office the economy was in free fall. It had just shrunk 9 full percent of GDP. We were losing 750,000 jobs a month. Are we doing better than that today? The answer to that is yes," he said.
He gave point-by-point criticism of Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, accusing Romney of wanting to overhaul government entitlement programs Medicare and Medicaid in a way that would reduce benefits for poor children and seniors, he said.
"If he's elected and he does what he promised to do, then Medicare will go broke in 2016," said Clinton.
Romney's criticism of Obama for allowing states to have waivers from work requirements in a welfare law Clinton signed is misplaced, said the former president.
Already there is talk that Clinton’s 50-minute speech will totally eclipse whatever Obama can pull off at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday. Schoen, though, said that does not have to be the case.
“Obama doesn’t have to be overshadowed if he just follows and builds on the approach that Bill Clinton put forward,” he said.
But Schoen said, given Obama’s past, he can only hope – rather than expect – the president to follow Clinton’s advice. “I hope he does, but I haven’t seen his speech,” he said. “People frequently surprise and I hope he will do just that.
“It’s an open question as to what he will do, but it’s not an open question as to what he should do.”
Other pundits agreed on just how good Clinton’s speech was. Dick Morris, his former White House political advisor who is a frequent critic of Obama, wrote on Foxnews.com, “You could see all the rhetorical sleights of hand, the magic of a delivery, the wit of the argument, the sarcastic sallies against the other side.” Morris said Clinton seemed like “a good lawyer defending a guilty client.”
Larry Sabato, the University of Virginia political pundit, said, "Clinton can probably sell Obama better than Obama can.” He said when Obama complains about the economy he inherited it sounds like whining, but Clinton could get away with it.
Peter Grier of the Christian Science Monitor said only Clinton could have pulled off the speech. “Nobody but the Big Dog could have clearly laid out such a detailed (and lengthy) case for Obama’s reelection,” wrote Grier. “That was a point on which Democrats and many Republicans agreed.”
Fred Barnes in the conservative Weekly Standard called it a “bang-up address.”
“The rousing Clinton speech was accompanied by his exaggerated body language — smiles, laughs, frowns, and nods — and the use of rhetorical devices such as alerting the convention that his next statement would be ‘important’ and everyone should listen up,” wrote Barnes.
“But for all that, the whole Clinton performance worked, not only in the convention hall in Charlotte but also on television. Clinton is a master at delivering a speech to political audiences, whether or not the content is truthful or hot air.”
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