POLITICS
11/29/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Barack & Bill Make Their Stage Debut Together (VIDEO)

Is this the happy ending to the fairy tale of Barack and Bubba?

Tonight, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton led a rally in Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, Florida -- the long-anticipated debut of both men on the same stage .

"Look at this crowd! It's not only big it is highly diverse," said Clinton, who had been criticized for sometimes racially-charged comments during the Democratic primary. "You've even got a few old gray headed white guys like me. You haven't shut my demographic out yet."

The 42nd President praised Obama for picking Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate: "He hit that one out of the park folks.'' And he made a strong case for why current Democratic nominee should be sent to the White House. "Folks," he concluded, "we can't fool with this -- our country hangs in the balance... Folks, this man should be our president.''

Obama, saying he was proud to be friends with the Clintons, returned the praise repeatedly. "In case all of you forgot, this is what it's like to have a great president," he told the crowd. "We all wish the last eight years looked more like the Clinton years.''

Watch the rally:

There were practical political purposes to the event as well. The former president and his wife are extremely popular in Florida. Sen. Hillary Clinton shared the stage with Obama during a rally in the state last week that drew up to 60,000 people.

And certainly the Sunshine State is once again shaping up to be a key battleground in the presidential election. The latest Pollster.com average of surveys shows Obama with a relatively slim three-point advantage over John McCain, 48.2 percent to 45.3 percent. Moreover, Republicans in Florida have a vaunted get-out-the-vote operation, and Gov. Charlie Crist claimed on Wednesday that internal McCain campaign polling shows the GOP ticket actually out in front.

The Obama-Bill Clinton joint appearance was timed to take advantage of local 11 o'clock news coverage, and promises to be front page material in Florida papers Thursday morning. It also seems to signal that the pair have settled -- or at least put aside -- any lingering tension in their relationship, which was bruised during the hard-fought primary and remained seemingly frosty during the early months of the general election. In an appearance on Meet the Press just one month ago, for instance, Clinton declined to identify Obama with the same "great man" title he bestowed upon John McCain.

On Wednesday night, there was no hint of lingering animosity. The two seemed comfortable on stage, with the former president laughing hard at some of Obama's more humorous lines and Obama heaping compliments on the economic golden years of the 1990s.

The healing process between the two Democratic figures actually started several weeks ago. Last month, Clinton revved up his enthusiasm for Obama, during another appearance in Florida, telling the crowd: "[H]e's got a better philosophy. He's got better answers. He's got a better understanding, and better advisers on these complex economic matters. He's got a better vice presidential partner."

At a rally in Scranton, Pennsylvania earlier this month, meanwhile, Clinton was equally effusive in his praise:

"Who's got the best ideas? Who's got the best instincts? Who's got the best ability to understand these challenges? Who's got the best supporting cast? The answer is Barack Obama and...that's why I'm here."

Though, to be fair, the relationship has not been strictly one-sided. Obama has also been reaching out to Clinton privately more and more.

According to ABC News, the Senator "called Clinton a couple of times during the financial crisis and consulted with him after President George W. Bush announced that he would have the foreign leaders come to deal with the financial crisis after the election."

Subscribe to the Politics email.
How will Trump’s administration impact you?