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. 



Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
Future Tense
Sept. 21 2014 11:38 PM “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow” How Futurama’s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare.
  Health & Science
The Good Word
Sept. 21 2014 11:44 PM Does This Name Make Me Sound High-Fat? Why it just seems so right to call a cracker “Cheez-It.”
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.