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President Clinton took the stage at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night to hype up President Obama and also to address such issues as the economy, the national debt and health care.
Clinton, who was scheduled to speak for 28 minutes but ended up speaking for 48, received rapturous applause at various points throughout his remarks. When it ended, Obama came out to join Clinton onstage to cheers from the crowd.
Immediately after, the pundits began giving their take on the speech, with mixed opinions.
“This may have been the best speech I ever heard Bill Clinton deliver over all these years, and I listened to so many of his speeches in his eight years as president and in the years that followed,” Blitzer said.
His CNN colleague David Gergen echoed that sentiment.
“He has given speeches in America, there is simply no one better — this is the most effective and influential speech he has given since leaving the presidency,” Gergen said. “He told the Obama story better than Obama ever did.”
Speaking to CNN, 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry called the speech “spectacular. I think the president laid out all the facts in a very methodical, very personal way. All of it factual.”
Added CNN’s John King: “Like every Clinton speech, it could use an editor. But like every Clinton speech, he hit it on the head with a hammer.”
King also noted, “He knows the problems Obama faces with the electorate, and he went at it like a campaign manager.”
CNN’s Alex Castellanos said he believes that Clinton sealed the election for Obama.
“This convention is done,” he said. “This is the moment that probably re-elected Barack Obama.”
Meanwhile, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell said he believed that one of the Obama team’s concerns likely is what effect the lengthy speech had on TV viewers at home.
“It was one of those Clinton tests of a television audience’s attention span,” O’Donnell said. “He used to do this sometimes with his State of the Union address that many of us thought went too long. But his longest State of the Union address — when the pundit opinion was unanimous that it was too long and lost the audience — got him his biggest poll jump ever.”
He added that Clinton ad-libbed at several times during the speech.
“The team here completely lost control of the time probably within the first five minutes, but that’s probably what made the speech work,” O’Donnell said. “When he was reading along with the teleprompter, and I saw what he did to it, that was the magic of the speech.”
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, meanwhile, said Clinton did what he was supposed to do.
“He’s a man of the center, and I think he brought the center home tonight,” he said.
Fox News’ Brit Hume was more critical of Clinton, saying his remarks about Medicare in particular were “loaded with all kinds of snake oil.”
“But this is Bill Clinton,” he said. “And it had all the strengths of a standard Clinton speech — it was engaging, convincing … but it veered off into policy details at length, was self-indulgent and about 30 percent too long. Par for the course for Clinton.”
He said some voters might have been swayed but added, “I’m not sure this speech, at this length, was effective.”
On Fox News, Steve Hayes said Clinton delivered a “backward-looking speech, a justification of [Obama’s] inability to take us further. … In a sense, Clinton was explaining Obama’s failures, he said nothing about what he’s going to do … to put you in the right direction.”
Longtime Democratic strategist Joe Trippi, also appearing on Fox News, said, “I think Bill Clinton did Barack Obama the biggest favor he ever could have done.”
Meanwhile, several commentators also hit Twitter to give their opinions.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof tweeted: “That may have been Clinton’s best speech. Explained without talking down, and drew distinctions without nastiness. Wow!”
CNN’s Piers Morgan liked the speech so much that he nominated Clinton for another job. “If he can’t be President again, can he be British Prime Minister? This is a serious proposition.”
And former Republican National Convention chairman Michael Steele wrote: “Clinton hit a home run for Obama. No doubt. No one does Clinton better than Clinton.”
But Fox News’ Hayes wasn’t impressed, tweeting: “I’m obviously in the minority — thought Clinton’s speech was mediocre. Worked in the hall but too long, too defensive, too self-indulgent.”
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