CHARLOTTE, N.C. ( TheStreet) -- Bill Clinton on Wednesday erased perceptions that the Democratic Party would largely ignore economic issues as he spent nearly 50 minutes defending President Barack Obama's record.
The former president addressed jobs, manufacturing, auto bailouts, health care, and the national budget in a speech that electrified the overflow crowd at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte.
"The Recovery Act saved and created millions of jobs and cut taxes for 95% of the American people," Clinton said. "In the last 29 months the economy has produced about 4.5 million private sector jobs."
Until Clinton's turn, the majority of speeches delivered at the Democratic convention had focused heavily on social issues.The former president didn't take long to take a jab at Republicans, who have sustained criticisms against Obama for the unemployment rate hovering above 8% during his tenure. "Well since 1961, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24. In those 52 years, our economy produced 66 million private sector jobs. What's the jobs score? Republicans 24 million, Democrats 42," Clinton said as delegates roared in the arena. Clinton said in the last 29 months of recovery -- a statistic Democrats often have repeated in this election season -- the manufacturing sector has added 500,000 jobs, which he said was the biggest increase since the 1990s. The ISM Manufacturing survey released earlier this week showed contraction in the sector for a third straight month, and suggested that global weakness has continued to weigh down manufacturing in the United States. The auto bailouts, which Democrats have praised in virtually every major prime time speech at their convention, was another crowd-pleasing vehicle in Clinton's speech. The 42nd president claimed the bailout of General Motors (GM - Get Report) and Chrysler saved more than a million jobs, which included employees who worked at the auto giants, the dealerships and the auto parts suppliers. "That's why even automakers that weren't part of the deal supported it. They needed to save the suppliers too," Clinton said. Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, suggested for the government to provide guarantees to any lender that chose to provide debtor-in-possession financing to General Motors and Chrysler. The government injected some $62 billion into GM and Chrysler. Opponents and Romney have suggested that private debtor-in-possession loans would have been the better route.