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Bill Clinton looms large at Obama’s party

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“He can do what Mario Cuomo did for him in 1992,” says Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in California, referring to the then-New York governor’s convention speech nominating Clinton. “Everybody was wondering whether it would be a Mario-fest, but Cuomo very wisely kept saying the name Bill Clinton – Bill Clinton is this, Bill Clinton is that. The more that Bill Clinton mentions Barack Obama, the better it will be for the Democratic Party.”

Another risk is that he may get the words right, but in a tone or with body language that betrays a hint of dismay. That will only fuel the story line that the Clintons may not want Obama to win in November, so Mrs. Clinton can try again in four years. Of course, if Obama does lose, and either Clinton is seen as having hurt the Illinois senator’s chances, that could doom Mrs. Clinton’s prospects as a future presidential candidate.

It’s also highly possible that the former president will deliver a pitch-perfect address and take a big step toward winding down the Clinton-Obama soap opera. After all, Clinton is one of the great political showmen of his time. Even when he bombed in his first, overlong convention address – the 1988 nominating speech for then-Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts – he quickly recovered by appearing on the Tonight Show, where he played the saxophone and made fun of his convention flop.

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