Former US president Bill Clinton said Thursday that he expects to see fellow Democrat Barack Obama re-elected to the White House in 2012.

"I'll be surprised if he's not re-elected," Clinton told ABC News. "I've always thought he would be."

Clinton, who led the country from 1993 to 2001, was the last Democratic president to be re-elected since Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940s.

According to Clinton, the economy will have improved enough by November 6, 2012 -- US election day -- for voters to favor Obama for a second term, even though unemployment will likely remain relatively high. Currently unemployment is at 9.1 percent.

"When President Obama took office, we were in the midst of avoiding having a financial collapse turn into a depression. So, theunemployment rate was higher (than during Clinton's presidency) and people were scared to death about what was going to happen," he said.

Clinton said that Obama's stimulus measures have "outperformed expectations, not underperformed, but it wasn't big enough to lift this whole economy out of the hole it was in. The auto restructuring is working. And I think he'll be able to point to that."

The former president, whose wife Hillary Clinton narrowly lost the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination and is now Obama'ssecretary of state, also said he believed that whichever Republicanis nominated to face Obama will be constrained by the party's ideology.

"You won't just be able to say, 'Vote for me, I'm the non-Obama.' I think he's going to be able to point to a lot of very specific things that are better. I think that he's going to be able to convince people that it takes a little longer after that kind of collapse to recover," Clinton said.

"It took Japan a decade to recover.... We're coming back quicker than that."

Clinton had nice things to say about Republican presidential hopefuls Jon Huntsman -- whom he described as "impressive" and "non-ideological, practical" -- and Mitt Romney, who is "doing a better job as a candidate this time than he did four years ago."

He also said he was not surprised by the early success of congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who officially joined the 2012 Republican nomination race earlier this week.

"I've been watching her speak," Clinton said. "She comes across as a real person."