NEW YORK — Bill Clinton campaigned Monday with President Barack Obama in New York City, sprinkling political stardust on his Democratic successor and blasting challenger Mitt Romney for embracing the politics of “constant conflict.”
The presumptive Republican nominee’s campaign is using recent Clinton comments praising Romney’s business record against Obama, but the ex-president left absolutely no doubt he was behind the Democratic president.
“The alternative would be, in my opinion, calamitous, for our country and the world,” Bill Clinton warned.
Clinton, with Obama at his side, was speaking to some 50 Obama supporters who paid $40,000 each to attend a reception at the Manhattan home of hedge fund billionaire Marc Lasry, founder of Avenue Capital Group.
Clinton campaigned fiercely against Obama in 2008 when his wife sought, and barely lost, a historic battle for the Democratic nomination, but he has since mended fences with the president and is a trumpeter of Obama’s economic policy — even if he may at times stray off script.
But the husband of now-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stayed fiercely on message at the first of the three Monday events, insisting the president “has good politics (and) a good record.
“He’s made the best of a very challenging situation, he deserves to be reelected,” Clinton argued.
Romney and Republicans in Congress, Clinton said, “have adopted Europe’s economic policies” of “austerity and unemployment,” turning the tables on the common Romney campaign argument that Obama was embracing economic socialism akin to some governments across the Atlantic.
While Obama’s policy is “job growth now, and long-term budget restraint,” Republicans by contrast are focused on “wrong-headed” economics, Clinton said.
Obama weighed in to say Republicans have abandoned the “basic consensus” that the market was the best generator of wealth, and that investments in infrastructure, education and the environment were critical.
Republicans “have run from a preference for market-based solutions to an absolutism when it comes to the marketplace, a belief that all regulations are bad, that government has no role to play,” Obama said.
The 2012 election is more than anything about the US economy and jobs, and the coming months will see the parties clash over the role and size of government and how best to rein in runaway debt while fueling economic growth.
The two presidents proceeded to a gala at the luxurious Waldorf Astoria hotel where 500 guests paying at least $2,500 were to see a performance by rocker Jon Bon Jovi, according to the Obama campaign.
They cap off the fundraising with a Broadway concert, complete with stars like James Earl Jones and Mandy Patinkin, for about 1,700 people.
Obama will rake in at least $3.6 million for the evening, according to a campaign official.
More important perhaps is for Obama to be seen in the warm company of the only Democrat to serve two full terms in the White House since the 1950s as he struggles to get the US economic recovery out of the slow lane.
Five months ahead of November’s general election, Obama is locked in a tight race against Romney, and the support of Clinton — whose personal charm and ability to connect with voters and donors are legendary — is seen as vital.
But last week he undercut Obama’s narrative of Romney as a ruthless corporate raider whose time at the head of private equity firm Bain Capital made him the wrong choice for the White House, saying Romney had a “sterling” business record and “crosses the qualification threshold” to be president.
Republicans pounced, releasing web videos quoting Clinton as defending Romney’s record and accusing Obama of opposing free enterprise.
Striding into New York with Clinton at his side could help Obama assuage concerns about him among wealthy Democratic donors, including those in the financial industry, many of whom are fond of Clinton who presided over a 1990s boom.
In the wake of the flak over Bain, Democrats took a different tack this week, rolling out an ad slamming Romney’s record as governor of Massachusetts and saying he left the state with “one of the worst economic records in the country.”
Obama senior advisor David Axelrod said the ad was receiving a $10 million rollout in swing state markets this week.
Romney has bashed Obama for incurring a net job loss since taking office in January 2009 — when the tanking economy was hemorrhaging hundreds of thousands of jobs per month.
Axelrod countered that once Obama’s policies took root, the US economy produced 27 straight months of job growth.