WASHINGTON Former President Bill Clinton believes a candidate with Republican Mitt Romney's business success and political background is qualified for the White House, but he said Democratic President Barack Obama would be a better choice for the country.
"There is no question that in terms of getting up and going to the office and basically performing the essential functions of the office, a man who has been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold," Clinton said of Romney in an interview with CNN on Thursday.
"But they have dramatically different proposals, and it's my opinion, anyway, that the Obama proposals and the Obama record is far better for the American economy and most Americans than those that Governor Romney has laid out," Clinton said of his fellow Democrat. "That's what the election ought to be about."
Romney clinched the Republican nomination this week with a primary win in Texas although the race has been over for weeks as his remaining party rivals had suspended their campaigns.
Clinton also said broadly demonizing private equity politically as Democrats have done to Romney was wrong if restructuring underperforming businesses was necessary to save them and make them more productive.
"When you try, like anything else you try, you don't always succeed," Clinton said. "I don't think that we ought to get into the position where we say this is bad work. This is good work."
The real issues, the former two-term president said, are Romney's proposals and Obama's record and his plans for a second term.
"How do these things stack up against each other. That's the most relevant," he said.
Clinton has refused to follow an Obama campaign strategy of using Romney's former company, Bain Capital, as a weapon in the campaign. Democrats have attempted to portray Romney as a corporate raider who is out of touch with ordinary Americans.
Job creation is a central theme of what is expected to be a close general election in November.
(Reporting by John Crawley; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)