Former President Bill Clinton told a New York City audience of about 1,700 people Monday night that it's "essential" to re-elect Barack Obama, wrapping up a long day of stumping and fundraising for the president that raked in at least $3.6 million.
Clinton, who presided over a huge economic expansion during his eight year tenure and who left office when unemployment was at 4 percent, praised Obama's record of dealing with the financial crisis and warned that a Republican president would hurt the economy. (At an earlier fundraiser on Monday, he said electing Romney would be "calamitous." Just a week earlier, Clinton praised Romney's "sterling" record in business, a comment the Romney campaign quickly seized upon.) Bad jobs numbers last week could deal a blow to Obama's reelection effort, as the president tries to convince voters that the economy is headed in the right direction even as unemployment remains high.
"This is my third event tonight where I am the warm up act for the president," Clinton joked, as an audience member screamed "I love you, Bill!"
Obama bounded out a few minutes later, and Clinton retreated from the podium to a stool slightly to the side of the president to listen to his stump speech.
The $250-a-head fundraiser attracted Broadway star Patty Lupone as well as actors Jeffrey Wright and Patrick Wilson and actress Megan Hilty, who watched Clinton and Obama's speeches from a box after a performance produced by Margo Lion. Obama thanked Lion for producing the show, saying she once sent him a costume mustache after he said he wished he could take a walk in Central Park without his Secret Service entourage.
"When I tested this scheme with the Secret Service, they said it didn't look good enough," he said, but joked that he might try it in a "second term."
Obama slipped when he began criticizing his opponent, calling him "George Romney," before correcting himself to "Governor Romney."
"Wrong guy," he said as the crowd laughed. "Governor Romney is a patriotic American. He's had great success in his life and he's raised a beautiful family. But he has a theory about the economy that basically says, if I'm maximizing returns for my investors, for wealthy individuals like myself, then everybody's going to be better off."
Obama received the biggest applause from the Manhattan audience when he touted the end of the military's ban on openly gay service and referenced the health care law's provision that contraception be free for women, which has been criticized by Catholic and other religious leaders for infringing on employers' freedom of religion.
"We're not going to go back to a time when our military could expel someone because of who they loved," he said.
"We don't need a situation where women aren't controlling their own health care choices. I want them to have the same opportunities as our sons," he said later.
The event capped off a day of joint appearances for the two presidents. After a brief appearance at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, Obama and Clinton attended a fundraiser hosted by billionaire investor Marc Lasry. Jon Bon Jovi performed the Beatles' song "Here Comes the Sun," before the two raced off to Broadway.