Charlie Neibergall, File, Associated Press
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Former President Bill Clinton is posing his own version of the Republicans' "Are-you-better-off" question: "What kind of country do you want to live in?"
In remarks prepared for delivery to the Democratic National Convention Wednesday, Clinton says that is the most important question facing the nation as it decides whether to return President Barack Obama to the White House or replace him with Republican Mitt Romney.
"If you want a you're-on-your-own, winner-take-all society, you should support the Republican ticket," Clinton says, in excerpts released ahead of his prime-time address. "If you want a country of shared prosperity and shared responsibility — a we're-all-in-this-together society — you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden."
Clinton's rhetorical query represents a Democratic counterpoint to a question that Republicans have been posing since their convention last week in Tampa, Fla.
Clinton said Obama inherited a damaged economy and "put a floor under the crash." He said he then laid the foundation for a more balanced economy that will produce millions of jobs, new businesses and riches to innovators.
Clinton appears at the convention as Obama's top validator — an antidote to Republican claims that Obama has made the economy worse and a reminder of a recent period in history when the economy boomed.
The former president is the star of the Democratic convention Wednesday night, but the evening's most talked-about celebrity might be the Clinton conspicuously absent from the stage: Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Hillary Clinton is legally barred from political activity while serving as Obama's secretary of state, a post that has taken her to Asia for a mission Wednesday in East Timor. Her tenure as the nation's chief diplomat has only increased her stature among the Democratic Party faithful, many of whom are already clamoring for her to seek the presidency in 2016.
Bill Clinton said Wednesday he hoped his speech would help Obama and that he's not trying to promote another presidential campaign for his wife, who will be 69 in 2016.
"We're not kids anymore. I don't have any idea if she'll ever run again. She says she won't," the former president told NBC News.
While the speech is designed to be an enthusiastic plug for Obama and the economic policies he has pursued as president, it no doubt will stir nostalgia for the former president and first lady.
Completing the Clinton tableau in Charlotte is the couple's daughter, Chelsea, a special correspondent for NBC News who hosted a panel Wednesday on young people and political engagement.
Hillary Clinton battled Obama for the Democratic nomination in 2008 and has said she has no interest in running again. She's also said she plans to step down as secretary of state at the end of Obama's current term even if he wins a second four years in the White House.
But her popularity has soared since her bruising campaign against Obama, and she would begin the 2016 nomination contest as a heavy favorite if she were to pursue it.
Bill Clinton adviser Paul Begala says the former president's speech should be viewed as an endorsement of Obama and not a preview for another Hillary Clinton candidacy.
"The 2016 election is so very far away, it would be impossible to figure out any angle," Begala said. "Every Democrat wants President Obama to win."
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