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Bill Clinton's convention speech: 4 reasons Democrats may be worried

The former president is the marquee speaker at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night — and nobody knows what he's going to say

With memories of Clint Eastwood fresh in their minds, Democratic officials are a wee bit concerned about the headline speech at Wednesday night's Democratic National Convention by former President Bill Clinton. That's because while Clinton is a master orator, he hasn't finished writing his speech and probably won't show it to nervous Obama aides until a few hours before showtime. Add to that the sometimes turbulent relationship between Clinton and Obama, and you have the recipe for some real drama. Here, four reasons Team Obama may be worried about Clinton's big speech:

1. Clinton could pull an EastwoodThe "unusual speech" by the legendary actor-director on Mitt Romney's big night "clearly illustrated what could go wrong when a featured speaker strays from the campaign message," says Stephanie Condon at CBS News. Clinton surely won't lecture an inanimate object on Wednesday night, but until they see his speech, Obama officials have to be a little worried about waking up Thursday to the Twitter meme #ClintonEastwood. And remember, Clinton hasn't always been the exceptionally effective communicator we know today, says John Dickerson at Slate. For example: His "endless" keynote address at the 1988 Democratic convention "was a major miscue."

2. He could undermine Obama's messageThe Obama camp isn't really worried that Clinton will be "an out-of-control Clint Eastwood," says Ben Smith at BuzzFeed, "but rather that any private strategic differences might play out in public." Between praising Romney's "sterling" business career and stepping on Obama's message about not extending the Bush tax cuts for top-earners, "Clinton has not been shy about contradicting President Obama in public," says Noah Rothman at Mediaite. And given the long-running tensions between the Obama and Clinton camps, the political press will pounce on any deviation from the party line — not exactly the show of party unity convention organizers are hoping to project.

3. He could actively try to sabotage ObamaAt the end of a new article in The New Yorker on the slowly improving relationship between Obama and Clinton, writer Ryan Lizza drops in a tidbit sure to "add fuel to conspiracy theories about Clinton plotting to sabotage the campaign," says Margaret Hartmann at New York: At least some members of the Clinton circle want Obama to lose so Hillary Clinton will be the undisputed leader of the party, and first in line for 2016. This is "the great psychodrama of the convention," says Maureen Dowd in The New York Times. With a return ticket to the White House a possibility, this time as First Man, "will the shrewd and diabolical Bill buoy Barry or puncture him?"

4. Clinton may just outshine ObamaObama wants Clinton to remind voters that the last president to preside over good economic times was a Democrat, and to make the case that Obama's policies can bring back the same prosperity, says Reuters' Steve Holland. Clinton will most likely do at least the first part of that, but while Obama is no slouch in the rhetoric department, "there is the danger that the eloquent Clinton could upstage Obama's speech the following night." Actually, the real danger for Obama is that Clinton will fall flat, says John Hudak in USA Today. The swing voters who will decide the election have tuned out Obama, but aren't sold on Romney. For those "swing voters — particularly white, working-class independents — Clinton must outshine Obama. His re-election requires it."

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

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