Bill Clinton going to bat for President Obama at DNC

(CBS News) There is much anticipation at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. for the night's featured speaker, former President Bill Clinton.

Four years ago at the convention in Denver, he was a reluctant supporter of President Barack Obama. But now he's speaking in a prime speaking slot - the one usually reserved for a vice president. The reason: 12 years after he left office at a time of prosperity and a budget surplus, the Obama campaign wants Mr. Clinton to remind voters of the good times when a Democrat was in the White House.

Democratic Convention 2012
Campaign 2012

There was no love lost between Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama when Hillary Clinton was running for the Democratic nomination in 2008.

Mr. Clinton asked Charlie Rose around that time, "When is the last time we elected a president based on one year of service in the Senate before he started running?"

Since then, the relationship has improved, not least because Hillary Clinton, now retiring as Secretary of State, may want to run for president in 2016.

Mr. Clinton has even made what many believe to be the most effective ad so far this season for Barack Obama. In it, the former president says, "This election to me is about which candidates is likely to return us to full employment."

Even so, there have been times recently when Clinton has slipped off script with a complimentary reference to Mitt Romney.

Clinton told CNN's Piers Morgan in May, "The man who has been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold."

But never mind the occasional misstatement, Mr. Clinton's popularity with Democrats is so great that he's the man they've chosen to take the Republicans to the woodshed.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell has said, "Bill Clinton knows the name virtually of 70 percent of the people in that room, I'm not kidding you, he knows the name and he has met them. And not only does he know the name, he knows what they do for a living. He may even know their dog's name."

(On "CBS This Morning," National Journal's White House Correspondent Major Garrett discussed Clinton's upcoming speech and how the Obama-Clinton partnership formed. Watch that conversation in the video below.)

How Clinton, Obama forged political partnership

Rendell, the Democratic Party chair, says Mr. Clinton is in a unique position to help the president counter the major Republican attacks on his record.

Rendell said, "Here is Bill Clinton telling the American people, 'Don't believe that welfare stuff, I wrote welfare-to-work, Barack Obama has strengthened it, he hasn't weakened it. Don't believe that Medicare stuff. All he did was take $718 billion away from insurance companies and hospitals.'"

Asked if Clinton can do it in the amount of time the Democratic National Convention has given him, referring to his lengthy speech nominating Michael Dukakis in 1988, Rendell replied, "I would bet a lot of money that he exceeds his time limit."

An Associated Press reporter did the math on Mr. Clinton and found that since 1988 - the first time Clinton spoke at a convention, the former president has spent a total of three hours and 56 minutes speaking at Democratic conventions.

For more, watch Bill Plante's full report in the video above.

  • Bill Plante

    Bill Plante is a CBS News Senior White House Correspondent