Who Was Better—Bill Clinton or Michelle Obama?

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Sept. 6 2012 3:17 PM

Who Was Better—Bill Clinton or Michelle Obama?

The Slate/SurveyMonkey snap poll asks, “Just how good was Bubba?”

Bill Clinton addresses the audience at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC, on Wednesday, the second day of the DNC.
Bill Clinton addresses the audience at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday.

Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images.

Read the rest of Slate’s coverage of the Democratic National Convention.

Michelle Obama may have dazzled the DNC on Tuesday, but Wednesday night a maestro took to the podium. Bill Clinton spoke for 49 minutes—and left Democrats wanting more. As John Dickerson pointed out, Bubba managed to convince Americans they are better off, extol the forgotten art of cooperation, and demonstrate how the president’s homegrown values shape his policies. All the while, he bathed the crowd in his signature charisma, handing them one ad-libbed line after another. (That takes some brass!)

It’s a good thing our polling equipment can withstand large outpourings of enthusiasm. For Wednesday night’s Slate/SurveyMonkey’s snap poll, we asked, “Did Bill Clinton’s speech make you more or less likely to vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the upcoming election?” An astounding 39.2 percent of respondents reported that they were “much more likely” to support the incumbents. If you add the 17.6 percent who felt “slightly more likely” to support the Democratic ticket, Bubba’s words made 56.8 percent of viewers inclined to vote for Obama and Biden in November. By any measure, a command performance. (Information on respondents is available here. More information about SurveyMonkey Audience is here.)



Of course, Clinton had most of the crowd eating out of his hand before he even got to the microphone. More than 46 percent of respondents believe that Clinton was a better president than Obama. (Roughly a third hold the opposite opinion, and 21 percent aren’t sure.) Perhaps this is slightly unfair: The former POTUS, who enjoys a 69 percent favorability rating, shines bright for the era of economic prosperity over which he presided. (In a self-aware moment, Clinton told the audience: "No president—not me, not any of my predecessors—could have fully repaired all the damage that [Obama] found in just four years.")


On Wednesday we hailed a radiant, genuine performance by Michelle Obama—one that inspired 49.4 percent of survey takers to join Team Barack. The first lady’s speech scored better than any speech we had heard from either convention. So our third question aimed to assess how she did against a certified master of the art. We asked: “First Lady Michelle Obama spoke on Tuesday night of the DNC. Former President Bill Clinton spoke on Wednesday night. Who do you believe delivered the better speech—Michelle Obama or Bill Clinton?” Here, the silver-tongued fella from Arkansas won the day, as 49.8 percent of survey takers chose his address over the first lady’s. Another 24.6 percent remained undecided, and 26 percent thought Michelle, the underdog, prevailed. 


But Thursday night is the main event. It will answer the question now looming over Charlotte: Is Obama as good at talking about his record as Bill Clinton?

Katy Waldman is a Slate staff writer. 



Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Sept. 17 2014 7:03 PM Once Again, a Climate Policy Hearing Descends Into Absurdity
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 7:23 PM MIT Researchers Are Using Smartphones to Interact With Other Screens
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.