Raleigh, N.C. — Former President Bill Clinton received a loud welcome from a crowd of 4,000 at a rally in a Raleigh park Sunday afternoon as he criss-crossed the country, stumping for President Barack Obama during the final days of the 2012 campaign.
Clinton praised Obama as a firm commander-in-chief who has also led an economic recovery.
"You've got to vote your hopes instead of your fears, North Carolina," Clinton said.
The former president portrayed Obama's Republican opponent, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, as flip-flopping on major issues, likening him to the "chief contortionist at Cirque du Soleil."
"You should care whether your president is telling you the truth," Clinton said.
Clinton said that, if re-elected, Obama could continue to make investments in education, modern infrastructure such as rural broadband access, and public-private partnerships like Research Triangle Park.
Before Clinton, a line of speakers, including Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton and U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, revved up the crowd at the Pullen Park Event Plaza and urged them to go to the polls on Election Day and take a friend, too.
"Make North Carolina bluer than ever," said state Sen. Dan Blue of Wake County.
Republicans pointed to Democrat's smaller advantage in the record 2.7 million early votes cast this year than in 2008 and said they are "confident that we will maintain this momentum on Election Day."
"If President Obama thought he could win North Carolina, he would be visiting the state himself," said Rachel Adams, state spokesperson for the Republican National Committee. "North Carolinians are choosing Mitt Romney because they refuse to settle for four more years of the same under President Obama."
Participants in the Sunday rally said they hoped turnout would make the difference for Obama.
"The numbers are close," Obama supporter Elizabeth Carney said. "North Carolina is a battleground state. It's very critical that we have turnout."
Polls show a tight race between the two candidates in North Carolina, which Obama won by just 14,000 votes out of 4.3 million cast in 2008. He was the first Democrat to win the state since 1976.
A WRAL News poll released Tuesday found that 50 percent of likely voters would cast their votes for Romney and 45 percent for Obama. Both candidates were tied at about 45 percent in an Elon University poll released Monday.
Clinton never won North Carolina, while the Republican nominee won the state in 1992 and 1996. In addition to his 2008 general election victory, Obama defeated Hillary Rodham Clinton here in the Democratic primary.
First lady Michelle Obama will speak Monday at the Charlotte Douglass International Airport. She will be joined by pop star Mariah Carey and NBA star Derek Fisher. Tickets are being given away online on a first-come, first-served basis.
It's her first visit to Charlotte since the Democratic National Convention was held in North Carolina's largest city in early September.
President Obama's final campaign schedule includes stops in eight battleground states, including Wisconsin, Virginia and Ohio. It does not include North Carolina.