No one knows better than Barack Obama that you dance with Bill Clinton at your peril - big egos can squash even nimble toes.

He is nonetheless turning to the former President to give him much-needed lift when Democrats meet in Charlotte, North Carolina, in five weeks' time for their party convention.

Clinton, whose nickname "Bubba" is a reminder of his own roots in the South, will usurp the role that would normally be Vice-President Joe Biden's and deliver the keynote speech in primetime on the penultimate night of the convention. In it, he will formally offer Obama as the nominee.

That the party is giving him star billing is a surprise only in the context of the sometimes tricky Obama-Clinton relationship. Yet the reasons are clear. Perennially popular, Clinton will raise television ratings and will be a reminder that a Democrat was in charge in the buoyant 1990s when the deficit was a surplus. It will also allow the party to boast unity.


"There isn't anybody on the planet who has a greater perspective, on not just the last four years, but the last two decades, than Bill Clinton," David Axelrod, senior aide to Obama's re-election effort, noted to the New York Times.

The campaign will be looking for help from Clinton on several fronts, above all in connecting with white, blue-collar voters, especially men, who have failed to line up behind Obama.

Biden has not been nudged aside entirely. Officials say he has been scheduled to speak before Obama on the last night of the convention, at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

The rift between the Clinton and Obama camps in 2008 was mostly healed when Hillary Clinton, after losing the nomination, agreed to become Secretary of State in the new administration.

- Independent