ORLANDO -- Saying that Mitt Romney's economic plan boils down to hoping to "get credit for the 12 million jobs Barack Obama has laid the foundation for," former President Bill Clinton exhorted Floridians to re-elect the incumbent as Democrats seek to close the gap in the country's largest swing state.
Romney has made his promise of 12 million new jobs over the next four years a centerpiece of his campaign, but Clinton derided the goal, saying the economy is on track already to hit that goal "if they just don't mess it up." Obama should get credit for getting the country to this point, where signs of recovery are increasing, he added.
"I say, let's give the job to the man who's done the job so he can finish the job," the former president told a crowd estimated at 7,600 gathered on a sunny but chilly morning on the campus of the University of Central Florida.
Clinton was originally scheduled to introduce Obama, but early Monday morning, as storm conditions from Hurricane Sandy worsened along the Mid-Atlantic coast, White House officials decided to get the president back to Washington, leaving his Democratic predecessor to appear solo.
For just over a half hour, Clinton reprised portions of his highly praised speech from last month's Democratic convention, centered on his argument that an economic strategy built around the idea that "we're all in this together" will bring more prosperity than what he characterized as the Republican idea of "you're on your own."
"I hope I have some credibility on this," he said, referring to his own record of having been president during the country's most prosperous recent stretch.
"Budgets based on arithmetic work better than those based on illusion," he said, accusing Romney of trying to "hide the numbers" on his own plan.
The campus here, with its focus on technology and innovation, is a favorite of Clinton's, who campaigned here for Obama four years ago. He quipped at one point that "I ought to be on the payroll" for having attracted favorable publicity to the school. He used the college's program to illustrate the dangers of Republican budget plans that he said would "gut" government support for research and development of future technologies.
The Orlando area is key for Democratic hopes here in a state where Romney has held a small, but persistent, lead in most polls. The Republican campaigned in the area over the weekend.
Orlando and surrounding Orange and Osceola counties are home to large and growing black and Puerto Rican populations who turned out heavily for Obama in 2008. In the four years since, those populations have continued to grow while traditionally Republican areas of north Florida have not.