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Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States who now aspires to the role of first gentleman in the administration of the 45th, showed why Bill and Hill are still a package deal.

In his Tuesday night talk to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, delivered only hours after Hillary Clinton was officially nominated as the first woman to lead a major U.S. party presidential ticket, Mr. Clinton recalled their 45-year relationship in practically obsessive terms.

"Somehow I knew this would not be just another tap on the shoulder," Mr. Clinton said as he remembered getting up the nerve to introduce himself to his fellow Yale University law school classmate and future spouse in 1971, "that I might be starting something I couldn't stop."

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In the end, it was she who took the initiative to introduce herself to her silent suitor, whose life "took off when I met and fell in love with that girl" way back in 1971.

"When I was president, I worked hard to give you more peace and shared prosperity, to give you an America where nobody is invisible or counted out," Mr. Clinton reminded voters watching at home. "But for this time, Hillary is uniquely qualified to seize the opportunities and reduce the risks we face. She is still the best darn change-maker I have ever known."

No one can make the case for Ms. Clinton better than the man who knows her best, the man she has stood by throughout, and extricated from, the many messes, including the extramarital ones, he created. Drop her into any trouble spot, come back in a month and, he said, "she will have made it better."

The Hillary Clinton her husband described sounded like a living saint, always taking on the tough assignments to make the lives of others, particularly children, better. Always "pushing that rock up the hill" in the name of racial and gender equality, world peace and a cleaner environment.

But doubts about whether that Hillary Clinton still exists, after decades in the public eye during which she developed a hardened outer shell and proclivity for defensiveness and risk-aversion, remains her biggest handicap among a Democratic base that sees her as the candidate of the status quo, Wall Street and the Washington Beltway.

She moved to the right as her party moved left. The election platform adopted at the convention, which her primary rival Bernie Sanders called "the most progressive in the history of the Democratic Party," is a stiff repudiation of the policies of free trade, financial deregulation and welfare reform that she and her husband championed in the 1990s.

So, was the booing and heckling of all things Clinton that dominated the first day of the convention the last gasp of a disgruntled "Bernie or Bust" movement or a sign of more trouble to come between now and November?

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"It's easy to boo," Mr. Sanders told a group of jeering California delegates on Tuesday. "But it is harder to look your kids in the face who would be living under a Donald Trump presidency."

If the furthest Mr. Sanders will go to argue for Ms. Clinton is to say that she's not Mr. Trump – the race-baiting, hate-tweeting, Muslim-banning, Putin-loving Republican nominee – then she could be in big trouble. While there is little prospect that Mr. Sanders' more progressive backers would opt for Mr. Trump over Ms. Clinton or a third-party candidate on the left, that is not the case among white working-class voters who supported Mr. Sanders in the primaries.

Mr. Trump's anti-trade and pro-manufacturing talk is a huge hit among typically Democratic blue-collar voters in swing states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio. A CNN poll released Monday showed Ms. Clinton trailing Mr. Trump 66 per cent to 29 per cent among white working-class voters nationally, enough to tip the overall balance in favour of the GOP nominee.

White men without college degrees, who have suffered the biggest economic decline of any demographic cohort in recent years, are the forgotten Americans at the Democratic convention, which has pandered to every aggrieved minority group out there. Most of their grievances are real, but the parade of minorities only plays into the "white anxiety" Mr. Trump exploits.

Unlike her husband, whose folksiness and relatability endeared him to white and minority voters alike, Ms. Clinton is too conservative for progressives and too elitist for blue-collar types.

It's one reason why Hill now needs Bill.

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