DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — The last time Bill Clinton and Barack Obama spent so many hours on the campaign trail, dashing across the country to appear before adoring crowds, they were on different sides of the Democratic argument.
So that is exactly where Mr. Clinton began when he arrived here this week.
“It’s no secret that I tried hard to defeat President Obama in the primaries — and some of you helped,” Mr. Clinton said, drawing a laugh from an audience in Palm Beach County, a place that was slow to embrace Mr. Obama two years ago.
“But I want to tell you something,” he continued, waiting for the crowd to listen. “It is my professional opinion that he has done a much better job than he has gotten credit for so far. And all elections are about the future, so what is the alternative?”
A coast-to-coast campaign swing by Mr. Obama this week, his biggest plunge into the midterm election season to date, drew considerable attention as he raised money for Democrats in five states over three days. But in a series of less noticed trips to every corner of the country, it is Mr. Clinton who has stepped into the role of defending all Democrats — Mr. Obama included.
Few people may have more credibility paying a compliment to Mr. Obama than Mr. Clinton. Tense exchanges between the two men were an unforgettable element of the 2008 presidential race, which by all accounts Mr. Clinton took far longer to get over than Hillary Rodham Clinton did.
“If you’re a Democrat, you need to hold your head up,” Mr. Clinton said this week, delivering the pep talk of a coach who is disappointed with his team’s behavior. “I’m tired of reading about how we’re all belly-aching.”
The former president has become one of the party’s best salesmen. He has long been in demand to raise money for Democratic candidates, but now there is a more pressing need: raising the spirits of Democratic voters, dispensing wisdom as he works to put the party’s political challenges into a broader context.(Continues)