CHARLOTTE, N.C. - It's not the first time Bill Clinton has shaken off his hurt feelings and taken centre stage at the Democratic National Convention to make a pitch for Barack Obama, a man with whom he shares a storied complicated relationship.
But delegates were abuzz once again on Wednesday, speculating anew about how the avuncular, loquacious 42nd president of the United States intended to sell the insular, professorial 44th in yet another hotly anticipated prime-time address to Americans.
"There's a lot of anticipation, people saying: 'Oh no, what if it isn't a ringing endorsement?'" Dale Jenkins, 49, an Illinois delegate, said Wednesday as he worked his way along the crowded city streets through a maze of security checkpoints to the convention centre.
"Come on, now. He's Bill Clinton. This guy's going to knock it out of the park. He's a pro. He's not going to let anyone down."
Relations have been frosty between Obama and Clinton for years, with the president never sold on the notion that the one-time Arkansas governor was the bold, transformative Democratic leader he believes himself to be.
When Obama became a Democratic star after his address to the 2004 convention, Clinton was said to be wounded that the junior senator from Illinois was part of the "anti-Clintonian" faction of the party.
The chill morphed into full-fledged animosity during Obama's bruising primary battle in 2008 with Hillary Clinton. Her husband — once jokingly dubbed "America's first black president" for his commitment to African-American issues — was even accused of injecting a racial element into the contest.
The stunning charge arose after Clinton called Obama's candidacy a "fairy tale," and was dismissive of his primary win in South Carolina since the Rev. Jesse Jackson had once won the state too. A recent New Yorker magazine article also alleges Clinton once told the late Ted Kennedy that Obama would have been "carrying our bags" a few years ago.
Nonetheless, Obama apparently let it slide while Clinton licked his wounds to take to the stage in Denver in 2008 for a hard-hitting, 25-minute address. His remarks, however, focused more on George W. Bush's eight years in office than they did on Obama's message of hope and change.
"The American dream is under siege at home, and America's leadership in the world has been weakened," he said to cheers before running down a long list of Americans badly hurt by Bush's eight years in office.
Clinton can't really do that this time around — Bush has been out of office for almost four years. At this latest at-bat, Clinton has to make the case that Obama deserves a second term following a first bogged down by a near-depression, a glacially slow economic recovery and obstructionist congressional Republicans.
That will require him to heap praise upon the man by whom he has only recently begun to feel appreciated.
Clinton was reportedly wounded again after the 2008 convention, when Obama failed to reach out to him for counsel after winning the election. While delighted Obama tapped Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, Clinton reportedly still believed the president should be turning to him for advice and guidance.
Obama apparently came to agree with him a year ago, after his people approached Clinton's people for a round of golf. Since then, Clinton has been serving as a close adviser to the president as well as fundraising and stumping for him.
Is it real? Or just a bit of political artifice that's mutually beneficial to both men? Obama wants to get re-elected; Clinton reportedly has his eye on his wife's rumoured run in 2016.
Perhaps a bit of both, says one longtime political observer.
"Both of them understand their importance to the Democratic party. Whether they would be close personal friends under different circumstances is inconsequential to both of them," said Cal Jillson, a political science professor and author at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
"Both of them see the party as the foundation of their role and their importance in American public life, so Clinton is going to do everything he can to ensure Obama is re-elected, thereby possibly ensuring Hillary's in good stead to go for the nomination in 2016 if she wants it."
Both men are also looking out for their legacies, he added.
"For every president, there is no greater horror than being a one-term president. Two terms allows you to see your vision for the country locked in, and Obama desperately wants that."
Clinton, on the other hand, will believe his legacy partly lives on in Obama if he wins a second term on Nov. 6.
"That continuation of Democratic ideals is important to Clinton's legacy too, to locking in his own vision for the country over decades."