ORLANDO — Former President Bill Clinton talked up education, energy, the economy and health care Monday in making the re-election case for President Barack Obama, who missed their planned double-bill rally to monitor Hurricane Sandy from Washington.
Clinton, who spoke for about 30 minutes at the University of Central Florida, said Obama would strengthen the middle class and give the poor a chance to work their way into it — a rare mention of poverty this campaign. He took a few jabs at Republican Mitt Romney, saying even the more moderate Romney of late would undo the best of what Obama has done.
"Shucks, I don't mind Gov. Romney wanting to be president. I did, too," Clinton joked. "But this isn't about the candidates."
Then the 42nd president displayed his trademark style of discussing substance-heavy themes with an easy-going delivery to show voters why the election is about them.
On student loans, Clinton told the crowd peppered with students that Obama has reformed the program, eliminating the fear of having to drop out of school because of costs and making it possible for graduates to pay back their debt on a manageable scale based on their salary.
On clean energy, he said Obama is proving that green jobs can be created, climate change can be addressed, and the economy will still grow. He joked about the "awful" health care law Obama pushed that requires insurance providers to spend the bulk of premiums on health care, adds years to Medicare's solvency and sustains Medicaid.
Former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist introduced (and hugged) Clinton, who also shared the stage with Sen. Bill Nelson, who is fighting for his own re-election. The crowd appeared smaller — 7,600 by most reports — and a notch less energetic than if Obama himself had appeared.
Julia Tracy, a 76-year-old retiree, said she had been eager to cheer on the president but was still happy to get a glimpse of Clinton.
"As an old lady, I want to see the opportunities I had growing up be around for the next generation. I think (Obama's) the one to do it," Tracy said.