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After a messy fight over their platform, the Democratic party turned to the one man who can still be counted on for a barn-burning speech. So how did former President Bill Clinton do?

Well, love him or hate (and plenty of people still hate him), it's tough to argue that Clinton is not one of the finest politicians we've ever seen. He burnished his reputation once again last night with a compelling and fiery defense of the Obama administration, that also attacked the best arguments for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. He ran long and was wildly off-script, but everyone seemed to agree that no one else in this campaign — not even the President himself — has made a stronger case for Obama's re-election than Clinton did last night.

Here's what the pundits had to say:


Bill Clinton delivers for Obama at Democratic convention — David Maraniss, The Washington Post

Twelve years out of office but still and always ready to be needed, he took to prime time as master explainer and policy clarifier, party morale booster extraordinaire, voice of experience, historian longing for the old days of political bipartisanship, earnest economics instructor, hoarse whisperer to the middle class, and empathetic testifier for President Obama.

Bill Clinton Fires Up Democratic National Convention — Andrew Rosenthal, The New York Times

Watching Bill Clinton take the stage at the Democratic National Convention and take over the room with his first few, simple words – “We are here to nominate a President and I’ve got one in mind” — was like watching a great violinist follow a group of gifted amateurs.

The Democrats’ Second Night — Yuval Levin, National Review

Maybe this kind of story, with Clinton’s usual straw men and the appearance of some policy discussion, will help Obama some, but it’s not easy to see how. I thought Clinton might make a real pitch to working-class independents, sort of teaching Obama how he should be running. But this endless laundry list of a speech didn’t do that, and maybe there just isn’t any way to quite do that.

Clinton — Rich Lowry, National Review

I like the instinct to make a wonky case for the president on substance (or at least to make a wonky rebuttal to the case against Obama on substance). I wish someone had given this sort of speech at the Republican convention, although shorter and more disciplined.

Master tactician does Obama a favour — Mark Mardell, BBC News

Bill Clinton proved, yet again, that he is one of a kind. His lengthy speech wasn't off message but it wasn't on the same message as everybody else at this convention. He wasn't there to scare. He defended President Barack Obama's record and values with stirring rhetoric and impassioned pleading. That's what you would expect when a senior statesman is called on to come to the aid of a man he doesn't much like. But this speech stood out for being entirely different from anything else I have heard on the campaign trail, from either side. 

The Power of a Hug — Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker

And it was exactly their lack of personal chemistry and failure to become “close friends” that gave Clinton’s speech its lift. A subtext of the address was that, just like Bill Clinton, wavering voters need not love Obama to understand that he’s a better choice than Romney. When the two Presidents came together and hugged after the speech was (finally) over, the distance between them made their embrace all the more powerful.

My Take on Bill Clinton’s Speech — Erick Erickson, RedState

Yes, it was filled with factual errors. But this was a convention speech. He played to the crowd and they were putty in his hands. I do think the delivery and pacing were a bit slow. I do think he shined best when either beating up the GOP, which he clearly enjoyed, and waxing poetically about the nation. He seems most off when he defended Barack Obama.

Bill Clinton's effective Obama embrace — Maggie Haberman, Politico

It was a display of political force that underscored what a singular figure Clinton is in American politics, in either party. The Republicans have no one comparable to make a similar case on their side — the GOP’s most recent president, George W. Bush, steered clear of his party’s convention as the public still struggles with its feelings about his time in office. Clinton’s passionate, fist-to-the-podium speech is more than enough to suppress, if not totally squelch, the recurring questions about the relationship between the current and former president. They embraced in a warm hug at the end, one that was truly emotional.

Bill to the rescue — John Podhoretz, New York Post

Clinton rallied the faithful splendidly; but Michelle Obama had done that already on Tuesday, maybe more effectively. And its length and blizzard of detail suggest this tasty Chick-fil-A of a speech won’t change the mind of anyone who has drawn his own conclusions about how the Obama years have gone for him. But Clinton did change the subject a bit from the catcalls at the inclusion of God and Jerusalem in the Democratic platform, and for that, he did his president and his party a considerable service. Still, those lunatic boos are more likely to stick in the memory, and to pop up in ads, than will Clinton’s speech.

Clinton shows he is Obama's most valuable weapon — Andy Sullivan, Reuters

Former President Bill Clinton made a more comprehensive case for President Barack Obama's re-election in 49 minutes on Wednesday than the rest of the speakers at the Democratic Convention could muster in the 11-1/2 hours that preceded him. ... Though Clinton is rarely concise, Democrats and Republicans alike say he has few equals when it comes to explaining complicated subjects.

“We’re all in this together” — Joan Walsh, Salon 

Republicans will rue the day they dragged Bill Clinton into this fight with their welfare reform lies and their silly claims that Obama is a socialist defiling Clinton’s centrist legacy. Clinton can say things Obama can’t.

Clinton argues the case for re-election — Richard Wolf and David Jackson, USAToday

The former president did what he does best. He made the case for a Democratic-style economic revival based on investments in individuals and innovation. He stood up for the man who defeated his wife four years ago and stated the case against Mitt Romney better than anyone else has been able to do. For 48 minutes, he delivered a stunning tour de force that had delegates on their feet

Bill Clinton: wonk-in-chief — Ezra Klein, The Washington Post

Tonight, his role was wonk-in-chief, and he was trying to persuade the public of an old idea: That the best way to understand this election is to simply do the arithmetic. And so, for 48 minutes, that’s pretty much what he did. The question now is whether the Romney campaign can persuade voters that there’s a mistake in Clinton’s math.

Bill Clinton brings it for Obama — John Avlon, CNN

Bill Clinton's speech reminded many Americans why he remains our country's most beloved and naturally talented politician, for all his faults.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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