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Clinton takes center stage on day two of DNC

Meet The Press moderator David Gregory joins Brian Williams with his analysis of the Democratic National Convention's events.


CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Almost 12 years after leaving office, former President Bill Clinton is one of the stars of this year’s presidential campaign, and he’ll use his perch on Wednesday at the Democratic National Convention to forcefully make the case for President Barack Obama’s re-election.

New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, longtime friend and ally of Bill Clinton, explains how the former president can help President Barack Obama in his upcoming speech to the DNC.


Clinton has already starred in television ads for the Obama campaign, which are running on heavy rotation this week in Charlotte. But the popular former president has also emerged as one of the most beguiling figures this election, serving at times as one of Obama’s most potent surrogates and at others as a wedge used by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to slough off votes from the president.

Slideshow: Democratic National Convention

“President Clinton faced a lot of the same attacks in 1996,” a top Obama campaign official said Wednesday in previewing Clinton’s speech, “While history doesn’t often repeat itself, it often rhymes.”

In short, Clinton seems poised to link Obama to his own legacy – a bit ironic given that during Obama's 2008 campaign against Hillary Clinton, he argued for a break with the Democratic brand represented by the Clintons.

NBC's Michael Isikoff reports on the lavish celebrity-filled parties that take place at both the Democratic and Republican conventions where delegates, donors and lobbyists flock to throw their money and influence around.

Nonetheless, the former president will take the stage tonight near the height of his all-time popularity. Fifty-seven percent of voters said they had a positive opinion of Clinton in the August NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, versus 23 percent who voiced a negative impression of the former two-term president. In short, he remains one of the most popular active figures in politics, Democrat or Republican.

Perhaps in acknowledgement of Clinton’s stature, Romney has repeatedly referenced the former Democratic president on the campaign trail, primarily to argue that Obama has governed well to the left of Clinton, whose centrism was a core element of his political identity.

Bruce Bennett / Getty Images

President Bill Clinton applaudes the New York Rangers victory over the Florida Panthers at Madison Square Garden on January 5, 2012 in New York City.

"Bill Clinton called himself a new Democrat. He put that behind him. He believed in smaller government, reformed welfare as we knew it, and tried to get the economy going with trade and other provisions, lowered taxes," Romney said in July in Colorado. "But this old-style liberalism of bigger and bigger government and bigger and bigger taxes has got to end, and we will end it in November."

NBC's Mark Murray and Domenico Montanaro are in Charlotte, North Carolina for the Democratic National Convention. Today they talk about last night's speeches by Michelle Obama and Julian Castro, as well as what's coming at the convention tonight.

Moreover, when Clinton called Romney’s business record “sterling” amid a barrage of attacks on the former Bain Capital executive’s private-sector career, Republicans pounced in an effort to undermine the Obama-led attacks. Just last week, the Republican presidential campaign launched a website playing on that praise: SterlingBusinessCareer.com.

Tonight, though, Clinton will speak for himself in a speech that will also formally nominate Obama for a second term; a roll call vote of the delegates gathered in Charlotte is set to immediately follow Clinton’s speech, around 11 p.m. ET.

Clinton is sure to take an aggressive tack against Romney, something the evening’s earlier scheduled speakers are expected to do, too. Day one of the Democratic National Convention featured persistent and aggressive attacks on Romney, and day two is likely to reprise that theme.

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“We’ve been pretty clear that we’re going to lay out the choice in this election,” a top Obama campaign official said. “You’ll see similar messaging tonight on that choice.”

Among the most hotly anticipated speeches is the prime-time address by Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Senate candidate favored by progressive activists. Polls suggest Warren is locked in a dogfight versus incumbent Sen. Scott Brown, and her speech could help put her on top in November in the Democratic-leaning state. The former Wall Street bailout watchdog and the first – though informal – leader of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is likely to speak to the theme of “opportunity” that Democrats are looking to stress this week.

The evening’s earlier speeches will also feature an array of voices from core Democratic constituencies, including speeches by labor leaders, women and Latinos, among others. Contraceptive rights activist Sandra Fluke will speak, as will House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Continuing with the emphasis on Obama’s decision to bail out General Motors and Chrysler in 2009 – a move that is popular in industrial Midwestern swing states – Wednesday’s program will also feature autoworkers, labor leaders and former CarMax CEO Austin Lingon.

And the 9 p.m.-hour speech by Maryland Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen is likely to feature direct criticism of Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan. Van Hollen serves as the top-ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, which Ryan chairs. Van Hollen will also play the part of the Wisconsin congressman in debate preparations with Vice President Joe Biden.