Despite all the talk that Bill Clinton was not happy with his speaking slot at the Democratic convention or that he still was peeved by criticisms that came his way during the primaries, there was no way that Clinton would allow himself to be outshone as the orator of his party. As Kevin notes, he delivered a helluva speech on Wednesday night.
As soon as the crowd of delegates finished giving him the loudest and longest ovation of the convention (so far), Clinton declared that he was "here, first, tonight to support Barack Obama." With his trademark blending of folksiness and policy-talk, he presented a rock-solid case for Obama. Immediately, it was obvious: forget Hillary Clinton, it is Bill Clinton who has the potential to be Obama's best advocate on the campaign trail in the coming weeks,
The speech combined an effective critique of the Bush years, a sharp attack of Republican notions John McCain has embraced, and an enthusiastic endorsement of Obama as a man "ready to be president" on Day One. And it was laced with memorable lines. His rhetoric soared:
Barack Obama knows that America cannot be strong abroad unless we are strong at home. People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power.
That last sentence may well be written in concrete someday. And Clinton poked the Republicans with a fine zinger:
They actually want us to reward them for the last eight years by giving them four more. Let's send them a message that will echo from the Rockies all across America: thanks, but no thanks.
Clinton was unequivocal in his support of Obama. And he tied Obama to his own story:
Barack Obama will lead us away from the division and fear of the last eight years back to unity and hope. If, like me, you still believe America must always be a place called Hope, then join Hillary, Chelsea and me in making Barack Obama the next President of the United States.
Clinton had a bad time during the primaries. His standing fell among members of his own party. But with this speech, Clinton might well win over those Democrats who soured on him during the fierce battle between his wife and Obama. More important, Clinton, once again demonstrating his exceptional skill as a politician and a speaker, showed he could be an ace champion for Obama, perhaps even--dare the Obama fans think it--a game-changer. If he wants to be.