CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Bill Clinton takes center stage at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday as President Barack Obama's nomination is placed before a party hoping that the last president to preside over sustained growth can help propel him to re-election in a sputtering economy.
The former president's speech will be a high point in a checkered relationship between two men who sparred, sometimes sharply, in the 2008 primaries, when Clinton was supporting wife Hillary's campaign for the nomination.
If Day 2 of the Democrats' convention was all about grabbing some of Clinton's luster, opening day was designed to portray Obama as someone who understands the problems of ordinary people.
Michelle Obama played those cards with force in a speech declaring that after four years as president, her husband is still the man who drove a rust-bucket on early dates, rescued a coffee table from the trash and knows the struggles of everyday Americans because he lived them in full.
"I have seen firsthand that being president doesn't change who you are, it reveals who you are," the first lady said to lusty cheers Tuesday night in a deeply personal, yet unmistakably political testimonial.
Obama, who watched his wife's address back in Washington, arrives in the convention city Wednesday afternoon to prepare for his own convention-closing speech Thursday in the 74,000-seat Bank of America stadium - if uncertain weather permits the outdoor venue.
Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago mayor who served under both Clinton and Obama, made the rounds of morning talk shows Wednesday to trace a connection between the two presidents' "similar values, similar policies and similar objectives."
"He can do nothing but help," Emanuel said, rejecting any notion that Clinton's ability to get things done and work with Republicans would somehow diminish perceptions of Obama.
But former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, writing in the New Hampshire Union Leader, said Clinton's speech "will serve to remind the world of a time when the leadership of the Democratic Party took fiscal responsibility seriously. It might even induce nostalgia for the days of balanced budgets and bipartisan accomplishments such as welfare reform."
While Bill Clinton reclaims the political spotlight, his wife will be worlds away - in distance and substance. Obama's secretary of state is midway through an 11-day, six-nation tour of the Asia-Pacific region that started in the Cook Islands and ends in Russia. She should be in East Timor by the time her husband speaks.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the career venture capitalist, appeared nowhere in Mrs. Obama's remarks. But there was no mistaking the contrast she was drawing when she laid out certain values, "that how hard you work matters more than how much you make, that helping others means more than just getting ahead yourself."