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Bill Clinton on Romney strategy: "I look like a president, I act like a president.... Elect me!"

If enough people really understood just how backwards Mitt Romney's policies were in so many different areas, the race for the White House wouldn't be as close as it is a week before election day.

This was a recurring message from ex-President Bill Clinton, who came to Denver yesterday for Obama, after the president canceled a Colorado appearance due to Hurricane Sandy.

Clinton, who played an important role championing Obama at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, made stops at two schools yesterday -- first in Commerce City, then in Denver, at Manual High School. At the latter, Clinton broke down the president's policies step-by-step, arguing that the Obama plan pushes forward an inclusive path to recovery, while the Romney strategy is one that furthers inequality or in many cases, remains very much unknown, given the Republican candidate's tendencies to flip-flop, depending on the setting.

Bill Clinton at Manual High School
Bill Clinton at Manual High School
Sam Levin

In a thirty-minute address (longer than the typical stump speeches from Obama and Romney), Clinton began by criticizing the role of money in politics and the polarizing nature of the elections across the country.

"My experience is that in the modern world, where there are a lot of complicated problems...cooperation works and conflict doesn't," he said. "Evidence works and ideology doesn't. Arithmetic works and illusion doesn't. A philosophy that says we're all in this together works better than 'You're on your own.' Shared prosperity and shared responsibility work better than 'Give it to the top and hope it trickles down.'"

Clinton spoke after the usual Colorado surrogates for Obama addressed the crowd -- Mayor Michael Hancock, Representative Diana DeGette and Governor John Hickenlooper, who all appeared at Obama's City Park rally last week.

With Clinton's stops just days after Jill Biden, wife of the vice president, rallied in Lakewood, and two days before the president is expected to visit Boulder, it's clear that the campaign is maintaining a steady stream of high-profile events in the key swing state of Colorado between now and election day.

"You've heard from all the previous speakers that it's a close election," he said. "It shouldn't be. But it is."

Clinton said there are three major issues in the race.

"Which candidate is more likely to restore the middle class with jobs and incomes and give poor people an honorable chance to work?"

"Obama!" the crowd shouted back.

"Which candidate is more likely to build a new economy? You can't go back to the 1990s. You've got to build a 21st Century prosperity based on 21st Century jobs and educating and training people to do that work," Clinton said, prompting another cry of "Obama!"

"Which candidate is more likely to do what every president is charged with doing?" he continued as voters offered an "Obama!" before he could even finish his sentence. "To form a more perfect union!... Our eternal mission is to widen the circle of opportunity, to deepen the meaning of freedom, to strengthen the bonds of our community. The answer to those three questions is President Barack Obama."

After this more philosophical argument for the president, Clinton went on the offense.

"Governor Romney's case is just what it always was. We left you a mess. It's not fully fixed. Put us in, throw him out. Let us do what we did before on steroids," Clinton said. "The essential argument of Governor Romney is, 'Hey, I look like a president, I act like a president. I proved I can change my message for any circumstance.... So elect me and I'll claim the credit for the jobs that Barack Obama's policies [created]."

Continue for more from Clinton's speech and photos from the rally.

Clinton rattled off the areas in which he feels Obama's path to recovery is superior. "He's got a better jobs plan, he's got a better health-care plan, he's got a better education plan. He's got a better budget plan and he'll keep trying to bring us together."

Bill Clinton talking to supporters after the rally.
Bill Clinton talking to supporters after the rally.
Sam Levin

One-by-one, he touched on many of these issues, explaining how, in his view, a Romney presidency would undo much of the progress that the president has made.

In a section of his speech in which the crowd was particularly responsive, Clinton pushed the president's policies on higher education.

"I want everyone of you to listen to this. This issue can guarantee the election if a 100 percent of young people know about it," he said. "The president's student loan reform is the single most significant piece of reform legislation past in the last four years that hardly anybody knows about."

Clinton explained how more students have access to loans with cheaper interest rates, adding, "Starting next year, every student in this country with a federal student loan will have an absolute right to pay it back as a low fixed percentage of your income.... This means that nobody ever has to drop out of college again because they're scared of the costs."

This is the message supporters need to spread, Clinton said.

"Every young person within the sound of my voice should make sure that every young person in the entire state of Colorado who is going or will go to college votes for Barack Obama.... I talk about this in every crowd. Fewer than half the college students that I talked to knew about it and understood how it worked.... If everybody knew, it would change the election in every state in the United States of America. Will you tell it for the next week?"

He used a similar kind of argument for women's health care, saying, "Most people have no idea that in many places, women were paying up to 50 percent more than men for the same health care coverage."

Obama's opponents in Colorado painted the Clinton visit as one of desperation.

Just before Clinton's Denver rally began, Ellie Wallace, Republican National Committee spokeswoman in Colorado, e-mailed out a statement to reporters that said in part, "With one week to go until election day, Bill Clinton's visit to the Denver area is illustrative of a very worried Obama campaign. Colorado is a state that Obama won by nine points in 2008, but today, his standing with Colorado voters couldn't be more different."

After Clinton's speech, supporter Heather Laurie, 57, said that while the majority in attendance at this kind of last-minute rally were probably already enthusiastic about voting, she hopes news coverage of the event helps boost support for Obama -- especially since Clinton is such an effective orator.

Heather Laurie.
Heather Laurie.
Sam Levin

"He has the great combination of speaking the truth, giving the facts and numbers and breaking it down in a way that's simple and potent at the same time," said Laurie, a designer and psychotherapist who lives in Denver, adding, "Most people here are already pretty excited."

She added that it was special to her to see Clinton in person for the first time. "It felt historical."

Continue fore more photos.

Bill Clinton on Romney strategy: "I look like a president, I act like a president.... Elect me!"
Sam Levin

Bill Clinton on Romney strategy: "I look like a president, I act like a president.... Elect me!"
Sam Levin

Bill Clinton on Romney strategy: "I look like a president, I act like a president.... Elect me!"
Sam Levin

Bill Clinton on Romney strategy: "I look like a president, I act like a president.... Elect me!"
Sam Levin

Bill Clinton on Romney strategy: "I look like a president, I act like a president.... Elect me!"
Sam Levin

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Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.