Wrapping a whirlwind day of campaigning, President Barack Obama joined Bill Clinton — the last Democratic president, and vocal advocate for Obama — at a massive rally Saturday evening in northern Virginia.
Before a crowd estimated at 24,000, Obama both literally and figuratively embraced Clinton, who has emerged as one of the most dogged advocates for the president's re-election campaign this fall.
"He has been traveling all across the country for this campaign. He's been laying out the stakes so well that our team basically calls him the 'Secretary of Explaining Stuff,'" Obama said. "He was a great president; he has been a great friend."
As the final weekend of the 2012 campaign raised the question of which candidate, Obama or Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, would best move Washington past its intractable problems, Clinton, a president who has only grown more popular since leaving office, offered Obama his imprimatur.
"As you see, I have given my voice in the service of my president," the hoarse former president said, following some local favorites, the Dave Matthews Band, at the rally in suburban Washington.
NBC Politics coverage of the 2012 campaign:
- Uncertain finale looms amid weekend campaign blitz
- Romney implores Colorado for 'one last push'
- Biden zings Romney in Colorado
- Ryan travels to Pennsylvania, trying to put state in play
- Obama plays up 'trust' in battleground Ohio
- Obama aide explains 'voting is best revenge' comment
- Ryan: 'We believe in change and hope'
- Romney strikes optimistic tone as final weekend opens
- Polls: Obama stays ahead in Ohio, deadlocked with Romney in Fla.
- GOP's chances at Senate imperiled by self-inflicted wounds
Both Obama and Romney spent the day criss-crossing the United States to make a firmly centrist appeal, each of them trying to sound upbeat as the clock counts down on Election 2012. Each candidate drew thousands — sometimes tens of thousands — of supporters to rallies in Iowa, Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa, Virginia, Ohio and beyond. And each candidate argued he was the one who could break through the gridlock in a Congress beset for the past two years by bitter partisan fights.
"You know that if the president is re-elected, he'll still be unable to work with the people in Congress," Romney told a sprawling crowd in Colorado. "He's ignored them. He's blamed them. He's attacked them."
Romney spent much of the campaign's final weekend arguing he was the candidate of "change," co-opting Obama's 2008 message to use four years later against the president.
Whether the Republican candidate's claim to to the mantle of change would resonate with a handful of remaining swing voters in just a few battleground states was unclear. Obama seemed to enjoy an edge in states like Iowa, leading Romney by five points among likely voters, according to the Des Moines Register's final poll. But a WMUR poll of New Hampshire also found the president and Romney tied, at 47 percent, in another battleground state: New Hampshire.
That neither Obama or Romney had managed to open a solid advantage over the other in the final hours of the campaign only raised the stakes for the final series of events on Sunday and Monday. Both Obama and Romney — along with Vice President Biden and Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan — were set to hit the road for another robust schedule tomorrow. Obama was set to travel to Colorado, Florida, and New Hampshire; Romney's schedule would take him to Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania.