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Dems seek Clinton luster at Democratic National Convention; move Obama's big speech

By Julie Pace

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 5 2012 1:55 p.m. MDT

FILE - In this Aug. 27, 2008, file photo, former President Bill Clinton speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Charlie Neibergall, File, Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Barack Obama swept into his convention city Wednesday, eager to accept his party's nomination and make the case for re-election despite a sputtering economy. He hoped to claim a little luster from Bill Clinton's prime-time address to the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday.

In a last-minute shift, the president ditched plans to deliver his acceptance speech before a throng of 74,000 at an outdoor stadium on the convention's final night, citing iffy weather for Thursday. With a chance of thunderstorms on the horizon, Obama will accept his party's nomination indoors before about 15,000 people at the Time Warner Cable Arena.

Convention CEO Steve Kerrigan said the speech was moved "to ensure the safety and security of our delegates and convention guests." But GOP spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski cast it as Democrats downgrading the event "due to lack of enthusiasm."

"Problems filling the seats?" she asked in a statement.

Rep. Patrick McHenry, a North Carolina Republican, dismissed the risks of speaking "during a light September rain" and speculated the decision "has to do more with attendance than participation."

Whatever the reason, the shift ensured there would be no repeat of the extraordinary scene from 2008, when Obama accepted the Democratic nomination in a packed-to-the-gills, 84,000-seat stadium in Denver, complete with ivory columns on the 50-yard line. Republicans mocked that as "The Temple of Obama."

The move also reduced the likelihood of anti-Obama hecklers, since most of those in the crowd will be official convention participants.

Obama planned a national conference call Thursday to those who won't get in to the smaller hall.

Clinton's convention speech Wednesday will be a high point in a checkered relationship between two men who sparred, sometimes sharply, in the 2008 primaries, when the ex-president was supporting wife Hillary's campaign for the nomination.

Democrats hope that as the last president to preside over sustained economic growth, Clinton can help propel this president to re-election in less rosy times. His wife — seen as a potential presidential candidate again for 2016 — will be worlds away from the debate, in distance and substance. Obama's secretary of state, she will be midway through an 11-day tour of the Asia-Pacific region and should be in East Timor by the time her husband speaks.

Obama's Republican rival, Mitt Romney, said flatly the president just wasn't up to the job.

"Anyone who wants him to try again will be making a big mistake," Romney said in an interview that aired on Fox News Channel. The GOP nominee, staying in Vermont, has been spending the Democratic convention week preparing for fall debates with Obama.

He framed the economic debate against Obama in an email to supporters, writing that "no president in modern history has ever asked to be re-elected with this many Americans out of work. Twenty-three million Americans are struggling for work, and more families wake up in poverty than ever before."

GOP running mate Paul Ryan, campaigning in Iowa, kept up his running criticism of the Democrats. He predicted Clinton and the Democrats would offer "a great rendition of how good things were in the 1990s. But we're not going to hear much about how things have been in the last four years."

Ryan cast the country's economic struggles in grim terms, noting the national debt reached $16 trillion on Tuesday. "That's a country in decline," he said.

To bolster Romney and Ryan, conservative groups announced nearly $13 million in new ad spending to counter Obama's convention.

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