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By Tristan 

CONVENTION WATCH: Obama basks in Clinton's embrace


CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Convention Watch shows you the 2012 political conventions through the eyes of Associated Press journalists. Follow them on Twitter where available with the handles listed after each item.


AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

President Barack Obama waves as he joins Former President Bill Clinton during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday.


The crowd is thinning at the Democratic National Convention, even as the roll call of the states to nominate Barack Obama goes on. Obama has left, headed back to his hotel. And several spots in the arena are now empty as states cast their votes to nominate the president as their party's presidential nominee. Though Obama has officially been nominated by the numbers, the roll call is expected to go on well into the night.

— Sally Buzbee



On Bill Clinton's night to shine at the Democratic National Convention, his wife couldn't have been farther from the action.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, who fought Barack Obama to the finish for the Democratic nomination in 2008, is in East Timor as part of an 11-day tour of the Asia-Pacific region.

Barack Obama's secretary of state had this to say at a news conference there:

"My husband read parts of his speech to me over the last few days. I received the as-prepared version," she said, holding up a copy of what presumably was the speech, "which I am anxious, when I can, to compare with the as-delivered version. So it is a great honor for him to be nominating the president and I am delighted to be here in Timor Leste on behalf of the United States."

This is the first DNC that Hillary Clinton has missed since 1968. As part of federal law, she is legally barred from partisan political activities because of her current job.

The Clintons' daughter, Chelsea, was in thet convention hall, though, watching her father from the seats.

— Matthew Lee



Barack Obama popped onstage for an unscripted appearance alongside Bill Clinton, briefly sharing the adoration being showered on the former president by Democratic delegates.

After Clinton finished a rousing speech that formally put Obama's name up for nomination, Obama walked over to give him a hug. The former president and the president shook hands, waved to the crowd, than grabbed the hands of Democrats to the side of the stage as they took their exit together — with Obama's arm on Clinton's back.

— Connie Cass —Twitter http://twitter.com/ConnieCass



Bill Clinton is one of the few Democrats to talk about the nation's debt problem so far during the party's national convention. At their convention, Republicans hammered away relentlessly about the damage the nation's deficits and debt burden do. The GOP's vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, has been pointing out that the nation's debt has now reached $16 trillion.

But so far, the topic has been almost invisible at the Democrats gathering. Clinton, though, took it on. "We have to deal with it, or it will deal with us," he told his audience.

Obama's team hopes Clinton's credibility on the economy — it soared during his years in office — and his record for balancing the nation's budget could help the current president win over independent voters focused on such pocketbook issues.

— Sally Buzbee



Talk about a team of rivals. Former President Bill Clinton credited President Barack Obama with hiring Republicans, adding, "Heck — he even appointed Hillary."

Clinton told Democratic convention delegates Wednesday night that he was proud of his wife, Obama's secretary of state, and proud of what the Obama administration's national security team has achieved.

Bill Clinton said the work of Obama and Hillary Clinton together — two former rivals for the Democratic nomination in 2008 — sends a signal to the world that "Democracy doesn't have to be a blood sport. It can be an honorable enterprise that advances the public interest.

— Donna Cassata — Twitter http://twitter.com/donnacassataAP



Bill Clinton says no president could have fully repaired within four years the damaged economy that Barack Obama inherited.

"But he has laid the foundations for a new, modern successful economy, a shared prosperity," Clinton told the Democratic convention Wednesday night. "And if you will renew the president's contract, you will feel it. You will feel it.

"Whether the American people believe what I've said or not may be the whole election. I just want you to know that I believe it. With all my heart I believe it," Clinton said.

The former president, greeted by cheering Democrats like a rock star, acknowledged that too many Americans aren't yet feeling the effects of recovery.

"Are we where we want to be today? No. Is the President satisfied? Of course not," Clinton said. "But are we better off than we were when he took office?"

Delegates answered in the affirmative with a raucous standing ovation.

"When President Barack Obama took office, the economy was in free fall. ... We were losing 750,000 jobs a month. Are we doing better today? The answer is YES."

— Connie Cass —Twitter http://twitter.com/ConnieCass



Bill Clinton is thinner and trimmer and his voice is much raspier than the last time he was in the nation's political spotlight. But his speech, with its folksy language, its sly quips and expansive arm movements, is a throwback to his years as president. Even the music is a throwback: Fleetwood Mac.

— Sally Buzbee



Hate him, love him, say what you will about the complicated human being that is Bill Clinton. His energy seems boundless, and his oratorical skills can steal the show nearly a generation after he first sought the highest office in the land.

Far slimmer than during his days as a burger-eating chief executive, the ex-president and vegan dieter held the Democratic National Convention in his sway, gesturing, shouting, veering from his prepared text and using everything from his clenched fist to his toothy grin to bring his star power to bear on Barack Obama's behalf.

"Why do I believe it?" he said, channeling Elvis once again for a new audience. "I'm fixin' to tell you why."

He can be compelling, and he can be infuriating. He can be maddeningly specific and jaw-droppingly epic. Yet the pivotal question for the Democrats is always this one: Can that charisma translate into more support for Barack Obama? Because for all of his mastery of oratorical cadence and the bully pulpit, it is in the privacy of the voting booth where the audience-loving Bill Clinton still needs — and wants — to make a difference.

— Ted Anthony — Twitter http://twitter.com/anthonyted



"Democracy does not have to be a blood sport. It can be an honorable enterprise that advances the public interest." — former President Bill Clinton, nominating incumbent Barack Obama for a second term as he tried to emphasize the theme of collaboration in a political speech casting Democrats as less confrontational than their GOP foes.



Campaign volunteers are pretty diligent in their work. Except when a former president shows up.

Several who were patrolling the aisles in the stands put down their walkie talkies, and picked up their phones — to snap photos — as former President Bill Clinton took the stage to huge applause from his Democratic audience.

— Sally Buzbee



The convention audience erupted with applause as former President Bill Clinton walked on stage. His soundtrack was his 1992 campaign anthem, Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop." Delegates waved white signs that said, "Middle Class First."

— Ken Thomas — Twitter http://www.twitter.com/AP_Ken_Thomas



Just now: Bill Clinton has formally nominated Barack Obama for president. Among the former president's various and sundry rationales: Clinton wants a man for president who was smart enough to marry Michelle Obama — and who, Clinton says, has "a far better philosophy than 'you're on your own.'"



I want to nominate a man who's cool on the outside but who burns for America on the inside." — Bill Clinton



Sandra Fluke followed an unusual path to women's rights activist.

Republicans denied the Georgetown Law student a chance to testify on contraception earlier this year. She spoke out and earned the wrath of talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who called her a "slut." Women came to her defense. Limbaugh apologized.

On Wednesday night, Fluke got a prime-time speaking slot at the Democratic convention, in which she highlighted Obama's response and endorsed his candidacy.

She said the choice is "an America in which our president, when he hears a young woman has been verbally attacked, thinks of his daughters — not his delegates or donors — and stands with all women. And strangers come together, reach out and lift her up. And then, instead of trying to silence her, you invite me here — and give me a microphone — to amplify our voice. That's the difference."

"We talk often about choice. Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's time to choose," Fluke said.

— Donna Cassata — Twitter http://twitter.com/donnacassataAP



Workers who saw their jobs disappear after Bain Capital took over argued Wednesday that the nation cannot afford Mitt Romney economics.

Randy Johnson told the Democratic convention that in July 1994, Romney and his partners at Bain fired him and more than 350 of his co-workers. Johnson said security guards walked the former employees out of the plant. Some individuals were hired back — at lower wages and fewer benefits. Seven months later, the plant was closed. Johnson remembered employees his age crying because they had no other job to fall back on.

"Mitt Romney will stick it to working people. Barack Obama is sticking up for working people," Johnson said.

Cindy Hewitt and David Foster also recalled how jobs were lost and companies disappeared.

"So, when Mitt Romney talks about his business experience, remember: It's not experience creating good-paying jobs. It is experience cutting jobs. It is experience shutting plants. It is experience making millions by making life tougher for hard-working Americans," Hewitt said.

— Donna Cassata — Twitter http://twitter.com/DonnaCassataAP



President Barack Obama is on site and ready to make his first big splash of the Democratic convention with a surprise appearance onstage.

A campaign official confirms that Obama will join Bill Clinton onstage after the former president's speech Wednesday night.

— Ben Feller — Twitter ?http://twitter.com/BenFellerDC



"Now, for many years, our middle class has been chipped, squeezed, and hammered." — Elizabeth Warren, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, speaking at her party's convention.



For all the talk of how scripted and controlled political conventions have become these days, it's still surprising just how messy — and revealing — they can occasionally be.

Wednesday was a prime example.

First, the Democrats announced they would scrap plans to have President Barack Obama give the week's big Thursday night speech at Charlotte's open-air football stadium. They had insisted all week that rain would not deter him, but then apparently got cold (wet) feet at the prospect of busing in tens of thousands of volunteers to face rain and lightning. It all looked a little strange, as if a desire for good optics might have trumped common sense for a few days.

The afternoon brought another abrupt shift. Hammered by Republicans who had discovered the Democratic platform lacked language on either God or Jerusalem, Democrats opened their convention with an unexpected set of amendments to add both in. The move disconcerted even some party faithful who weren't aware of what the amendments said before being asked to vote. Convention chairman Antonio Villaraigosa looked downright uncomfortable as he called for three voice votes, each inconclusive, before ruling the amendments had passed.

Why put on public display such a messy, rushed-through change? Politicians don't do that unless they need to — unless events are moving fast and they need damage control. Obama, in a tight fight, probably can't afford controversies on issues such as whether his support for Israel is strong enough, or his party has faith in God.

Messy and revealing, despite the best laid plans.

— Sally Buzbee



Minutes before former President Bill Clinton was set to deliver Wednesday's keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, he shot an email to President Barack Obama's supporters and urged them to donate at least $5 to the campaign.

"Don't take anything for granted," the former president said. "When you look at what the other side is spending — and where they want to take this country — none of us can afford to think that way."

The fundraising appeal was among dozens that Obama's campaign has sent recently, including those from campaign advisers warning they will likely be out-spent by GOP challenger Mitt Romney and independent "super" political committees working in his favor.

— Jack Gillum — Twitter http://twitter.com/jackgillum



"We talk often about choice. Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's time to choose." — Sandra Fluke, attorney and women's rights activist, speaking at the Democratic National Convention.



Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, is borrowing themes from last week's Republican National Convention to needle Paul Ryan, the budget panel's chairman and the GOP's vice presidential candidate.

"The Republicans had this gigantic clock in the arena showing the size of the national debt," Van Hollen says. "Paul told America, 'If you elect Republicans, we can fix that.' But if Paul Ryan was being honest, he would have pointed to that debt clock and said: 'We built that.'"

Van Hollen says the Republicans, under President George W. Bush, racked up trillions of dollars in debt by putting the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, tax cuts and a new entitlement program for seniors on the nation's credit card.

"Republicans didn't pay for any of it," Van Hollen says. "Paul Ryan voted for all of it."

The national debt was $5.7 trillion when President Bill Clinton left office in January 2001 and it grew to $10.6 trillion under Bush. It has surpassed $16 trillion under Obama, an increase that has fueled Republican claims that Americans are not better off than they were four years ago.

— Richard Lardner — Twitter http://twitter.com/rplardner



Republicans had their business executives last week praising Mitt Romney. Democrats countered with their own Wednesday night.

Jim Sinegal, co-founder and former CEO of Costco, said he was supporting President Barack Obama because he's "making an economy built to last."

"Business needs a president who has covered businesses' backs. A president who understands what the private sector needs to succeed. A president who takes the long view and makes the tough decisions," Sinegal said.

Austin Ligon, co-founder and former CEO of CarMax Inc., expressed his appreciation for the bailout of auto industry giants GM and Chrysler.

"That didn't just save the car companies — it helped prevent a domino effect that would have taken down everything in the auto industry, from the factories that manufactured auto parts to the dealers who sold the cars," Ligon said.

— Donna Cassata — Twitter http://twitter.com/DonnaCassataAP



The floor of the Democratic national convention is set up differently than the Republicans'. In Tampa, the delegates sat on one level, in chairs on the arena floor. In Charlotte, most delegates sit in the first tier of stands elevated above the floor, though a few states scored prime convention-floor spots.

The slight difference in arrangements does not, however, change the basic dynamics of any political convention: Some delegates sit and listen attentively to the speakers while others throng the aisles, chatting with friends and angling for a photo with the famous.

The concourses that surround the arena floor are a mix of politics and a baseball- or basketball-game vibe: Nachos! Footlong hot dogs! Schmoozing! Nancy Pelosi walks through in an electric-blue pantsuit and perfect hair, shaking hands with admirers. And of course there are the ubiquitous well-dressed, athletically fit Secret Service officers, wires in ears, standing by the exit doors.

— Sally Buzbee


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