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Politics

In NH, Bill Clinton talks up Obamacare

Former President Bill Clinton spoke at the University of New Hampshire.

1875962376001/Getty Images

Former President Bill Clinton spoke at the University of New Hampshire.

DURHAM, N.H. — Is Obamacare now becoming an asset for Democrats?

Two years ago, President Obama’s health care overhaul looked like an albatross around the necks of Democratic candidates — nowhere more so than in the swing state of New Hampshire, where conservative opposition to the law helped propel the GOP to sweeping victories in 2010.

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Now, Democrats seem to be betting the tide has turned. At an Obama rally on the campus of the University of New Hampshire Wednesday afternoon, both former president Bill Clinton and New Hampshire Democratic gubernatorial candidate Maggie Hassan pointedly embraced the law.

Hassan, who is running against Republican Ovide Lamontagne, praised parts of the legislation that allows students to stay on their parents’ health plans until they are 26 and provisions that require insurers to cover birth control.

“What does Mitt Romney say about that? He says he would kill it dead,” she told a crowd of over 1,600 campaign volunteers and supporters who had gathered at a campus basketball court on a rainy afternoon.

In Clinton’s speech, the former president, whose own effort to pass health care reform failed in his first term, attacked Mitt Romney for distancing himself from the Massachusetts law that served as a model for the national legislation.

“He has renounced the only part of his record that has really worked,” Clinton said.

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Romney has not actually renounced the Massachusetts law — he has continued to praise it, and last week offered it as evidence of his empathy. But Romney has promised repeatedly to repeal the national law.

Clinton, who has emerged as one of the Obama campaign’s chief surrogates since his address at the Democratic Convention, began his speech with a somewhat meandering discussion of the auto bailout, student loans, and German energy policy. But when he moved into his attacks on Romney — especially the GOP nominee’s charge that there are 47 percent of Americans “who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it” — the former president became more animated.

“A guy with a tax account in the Cayman Islands is attacking other people for not wanting to pay income tax?” he said.

Clinton also attacked the GOP ticket for seeking to blame the mounting national debt on Obama, saying their own plans would make it worse.

“We’re having a campaign in which, with a straight face, President Obama’s opponents are running a debt clock at their convention,” Clinton said. “Their debt plan is to make it $7 trillion worse. How can you take this seriously?”

After Clinton’s motorcade departed, Rick Barrick, 60, a retired journalist from Dallas who moved temporarily to New Hampshire to volunteer full-time for the Obama campaign, said he was impressed with Clinton.

“You know the guy can still speak,” he said. “Toward the end you saw it come out.”

Alan Wirzbicki can be reached at awirzbicki@globe.com.

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