Obama's campaign taps former president to make prime-time economic case for a second term.
WASHINGTON - Former President Bill Clinton is set to play a central part in the Democratic National Convention, aides said, and will formally place President Obama's name into nomination by delivering a prime-time speech designed to present a forceful economic argument for why Obama deserves to win a second term.
The prominent role of Clinton, which is scheduled to be announced on Monday, signals an effort by the Obama campaign to pull out all the stops to rally Democrats when they gather for their national convention in Charlotte, N.C.
"There isn't anybody on the planet who has a greater perspective on not just the last four years, but the last two decades, than Bill Clinton," David Axelrod, a top strategist to the Obama campaign, said in an interview on Sunday. "He can really articulate the choice that is before people."
The decision to give Clinton a marquee speech at the convention on Sept. 5 means that Vice President Joe Biden will not speak until the final night, aides said, when he and Obama will appear together outdoors at Bank of America Stadium. The vice president will introduce Obama before they accept the party's nomination for a second term.
It is unusual in recent election cycles, although not without precedent, for the vice president not to get the stage to himself during a night at the convention. But in his speech, aides said, Biden is expected to remind Americans about the last four years and the administration's accomplishments in a difficult economic climate.
The invitation to Clinton to be center stage at the convention marks another milestone in the complicated and evolving relationship with Obama.
At the party's convention in Denver four years ago, all eyes were on Clinton when he offered a full-throated endorsement of Obama in a speech that served as something of a truce at the end of Obama's contentious primary fight with the former president's wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
For Bill Clinton, who has become one of the most popular figures in the Democratic Party, the speech will be among the most high-profile roles yet that he has assumed for Obama. The address is intended to offer a strong contrast with the Republican ticket and will be closely watched, particularly given a string of blunt statements -- and retractions -- that Clinton has made this year when talking about the Obama administration.
This spring, Clinton said that former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, the presumptive Republican nominee, had a "sterling business career" as a private equity executive. The Romney campaign used the line for days as a rebuttal to Democratic criticism that Romney had pursued profits over workers' jobs.
Ammunition for the GOP
Clinton also called for temporarily extending all of the tax cuts set to expire at the end of this year, including the Bush-era rates, which put him at odds with the president. He later apologized, but not before the Republican National Committee seized on the controversy, declaring: "Bubba Axes Obama ... Again."
But Obama, in a tight re-election campaign, signed off on the decision to invite Clinton, aides said, because he is the most effective weapon in the Democratic Party's arsenal and the rewards far outweigh any risks. "To really lay this choice out, there is no one better," Axelrod said. "We're trying to deploy our assets."