Did Bill Clinton's convention speech boost Obama — or upstage him?

The former president shone so bright on Wednesday night that he might unintentionally dim President Obama's headline speech on Thursday

President Barack Obama joins former President Bill Clinton onstage after the 43rd president's address at the DNC on Wednesday night. On Thursday, Obama will take the stage to deliver a speech
(Image credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

On the second night of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, former President Bill Clinton reminded Democrats why they love him — and Republicans why they used to hate him — with a rousing endorsement of President Obama, a detailed defense of his policies, and a point-by-point refutation of all the attacks lobbed at last week's Republican National Convention. "In Tampa," the 43rd president said, "the Republican argument against the president's re-election was pretty simple: We left him a total mess, he hasn't cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in." (Watch video of the speech below.) Whether or not you agree with Clinton's policies, or his critiques, you have to appreciate that on Wednesday night, "you were watching a master at work," says Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post. "Clinton was at the top of his game," agrees Ana Navarro at CNN, but while he made a strong case for Obama's re-election, he also created a problem for the incumbent: Obama "now needs to top Clinton's speech, and Bill set the bar quite high." Did Clinton's endorsement help sell Obama to skeptical swing voters, or did he manage to upstage the president he's trying to help?

Clinton set up Obama beautifully: The former president "defined the race better than Obama is capable of" — at least partly because he can afford to wield a rhetorical shiv, says Ron Fournier at National Journal. Clinton's "folksy yet brutally partisan" speech was as much about cheerfully dismembering Mitt Romney as it was talking up Obama, and that "cleared a path for Obama to be forward-looking and aspirational" on Thursday. Now that Clinton has done the "dirty work" with gusto and grace, Obama is free to sell an optimistic vision for the future.

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