ANALYSIS: What a Difference Four Years Makes

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  • For the first time in this year’s presidential campaign, former president Bill Clinton shared the spotlight with President Barack Obama and told supporters in Virginia they should support Obama over Mitt Romney in November.

    “When you become President, your job is to explain where we are, say where you think we should go, have a strategy to get there, and execute it,” Clinton told a cheering crowd of about 500 last weekend. “By that standard, Barack Obama deserves to be reelected President of the United States.”

    “One of the things that I think 20 years from now will be among the most important things he’s accomplished as President that is never mentioned… is the reform in the student loan law which will let every student pay back his or her loan for up to 20 years as a small percentage of their income so nobody ever has to drop out of college again,” Clinton said.

    Clinton’s appearance with Obama is noteworthy because it signals the beginning of the Obama-Romney head-to-head battle for the White House but it also helps to advance the president’s fundraising, which totals about $350 million so far.

    Last weekend, Clinton, who remains perhaps the most popular ex-president in history, helped Obama raise about $2 million. Tickets to Sunday’s outdoor reception cost $1,000 and up, and Obama and Clinton later addressed a more exclusive dinner for 80 people who paid $20,000 each.

    “I think he’s done a good job,” Clinton said. “We are going in the right direction under President Obama’s leadership.”

    What a difference four years makes.

    During the brutal 2008 campaign, Obama and Bill Clinton experienced some rocky moments when Hillary Clinton ran for president and there was clearly tension between Obama and the Clintons that lasted for months. But today, all is forgiven — at least politically.

    Now, seven months before Election Day, it’s all about rallying around Obama, showing a unified Democratic Party, and beating Romney, the Republican billionaire.

    “All roads lead to reelection cooperation,” Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic consultant, told The Washington Post. “The Clinton muscle on the campaign trail and no party schism helps Obama. And [it] keeps Bill Clinton’s legacy intact.”

    Clinton’s enthusiastic endorsement of Obama coincided with the Obama campaign’s release of a new campaign video, “The Road We’ve Traveled,” which features Clinton discussing the operation – and never-seen footage — that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

    But not everyone who supported Hillary Clinton for president has come around to Bill Clinton’s way of thinking.

    Bob Johnson, for example, the founder of BET, has yet to endorse Obama – and, truth be told, he may never embrace the president. Last year, Johnson was widely criticized by black Democrats for condemning Obama on Fox News. Johnson said he didn’t agree with Obama saying that America’s wealthy citizens should pay more in taxes.

    “Well, I think the president has to recalibrate his message,” said Johnson, who remains loyal to the Clintons. “You don’t get people to like you by attacking them or demeaning their success. You know, I grew up in a family of 10 kids, first one to go to college, and I’ve earned my success. I’ve earned my right to fly private if I choose to do so.

    “And by attacking me it is not going to convince me that I should take a bigger hit because I happen to be wealthy,” Johnson said. “I’ve tried poor and I tried rich and I like rich better. It doesn’t mean that I am a bad guy.”

    Meanwhile, Obama, who speaks more candidly at private fundraisers, told supporters that being president keeps him grounded.

    “There’s nothing more humbling, actually, than being President,” Obama said last weekend. “It’s a strange thing. Suddenly you’ve got all the pomp and the circumstance and you’ve got the helicopters and you’ve got the Air Force One …But the reason it’s humbling is because you wake up every morning and you know there are folks out there still hurting, especially in what we’ve been going through over the last four years.”

    “And you want to just be able to help each one of those people, one by one, because they’re deserving of it; because they represent what’s best in America,” the president added. “And you know that at the end of the day, no matter how hard you work, there’s still going to be some stuff left undone. And you also know that you’re going to make mistakes and there are going to be times where your team makes mistakes. And so your mind doesn’t rest because you’re constantly thinking, what else do I need to be doing?”

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