But he said, pausing, "I am far more enthusiastic about him than I was four years ago!!" in perhaps his most energetic line of the evening, coming in the first minute of his nearly 45-minute long, very wonkish address before approximately 2,000 people.
St. Pete was the fourth stop in a five-appearance campaign day in the Sunshine State for the 42nd president of the U.S, which has to be some sort of record for any such high-profile surrogate. But this isn't any surrogate, this is The Big Dog, now 66-years old, a man who underwent quadruple bypass surgery after suffering a heart attack eight years ago. Clinton was to follow up with one last rally in Tallahassee after St. Pete, following earlier events in Ft. Myers, Palm Bay, and Palm Beach County.
So the ex-prez was a little less energetic than usual, and did we say he was pretty wonky? He also was very hoarse, and the already less than stellar sound system ended up garbling large amounts of his speech on first listen, frustrating some members of the audience who bailed out before it ended at around 6:45 p.m.
Frankly, if you want quotes from the speech, I suggest you read the Tampa Tribune or the Tampa Bay Times because I could barely take any notes, so bad was the sound in the high school gymnasium-type of atmosphere that the Coliseum felt like Friday night.
Let me put it this way: if the sound was this bad at Clinton's speech at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte in early September, Barack Obama would be in a lot worse shape in his bid for re-election. Clinton's stemwinder at the DNC was a spellbinder, the "explainer-in-chief" giving a crafty and energetic and understandable presentation of President Obama's challenges and triumphs that instantly gave the Democrats a real "bounce," wowing the media and making it the first game-changer that the campaign had been looking for all year long.
Then came the first debate a month later, the second and biggest game-changer of the campaign. Romney seriously began positioning himself as a moderate, and has had the momentum for the last month. But the hellacious super storm Sandy rejiggered the race again, and with a relatively decent jobs report on Friday, seems to have Obama in a good position for this Tuesday. But Team Romney say he has everything going in his favor as well.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Congreswoman Kathy Castor began the pre-game show. Castor tried to almost embarrass those in the crowd who hadn't voted yet. The Democrats m.o. in Florida has been to get as many of their voters out in absentee or early voting, but there's just one day left of that on Saturday before the 12 hours of voting on Tuesday.
Charlie Crist, who has been extremely busy opening all of these campaign events in Florida, got the crowd ired up by giving a little call and response, bringing up a word or words and having the crowd cheer "up", and then its negative rejoinder, which of course was down.
He began by leading the way saying, "Optimism is up, pessimism, down." Then he just said the first word or words, and had the audience yell "up" or 'down."
"Jobs are... up, unemployment is ..down. Equal pay is up, discrimination, down. Home sales up, interest rates, down. Domestic energy,up, foreign dependence, down. Auto industry, up, plant closings, down. The troops home, up. War, down. Improving education, up, blaming teachers, down, Barack Obama, up (and then a huge cheer), Mick Romney, down! Moving forward, up, going backward, down. Hope, up. Despair, down."
Clinton then reprised parts of his convention speech, detailing how the hard the financial circumstances
in the country were when Obama took over in January of 2009. He said under Obama, 5.5 million news jobs were created in the private sector. He said that was much better than the 2.6 million under George W. Bush. "I can tell you, nobody, nobody, nobody, not me, not anybody else, could have repaired all the damage in four years," generating huge cheers.
Before the event, CL went wandering around in a beautiful late afternoon sunshine along 4th Avenue North in St. Pete.
James Buberger from Pinellas Park is a classically obsessed Obama supporters, saying he goes to look at various polls six times a day.
He said he was a fan of New York Times blogger Nate Silver, saying he backed him a hundred percent as many conservatives (including MSNBC's Joe Scarborough) are mocking him for his dogged prediction that Barack Obama is the decided favorite based on polls in Tuesday's election. Bulberger said he had "zero concerns about Obama" winning the election, but he was concerned that it would be a close race.
"When all it’s said and done, we’d all love to see Obama get a huge mandate, but that’s not going to happen — it’s probably going to be by a slim margin, but the reality is, it’s just like the Tampa Bay Rays, and you want to get just one more run than the other guy, and if he wins 270 to 268, victory!"
Henry Purdy worked as a systems administrator for 37 years, but is now retired. A black man who appeared to be in his 60's, he said Obama remains a transcendent figure to him, and he is a solid supporter of the president. "I think he did a sensational job with what he had to work with," adding that he should be allowed to finish what he's started as leader of the country. Purdy said the country wants Republicans and Democrats to work together for the nation.
Apparently a religious man, Purdy said "Jesus Christ" had a lot to do with Obama being elected four years ago. "In my lifetime I never thought a black guy would be president, but it did happen," He said, sounding still amazed by it all.
This may have been the last campaign appearance by one of the candidates or their top surrogates. Obama will appear in South Florida again on Sunday, Romney in Sanford (the site of the Travyon Martin killing) on Monday. And then this campaign will be history.