PHILADELPHIA - A smiling, energetic former President Clinton campaigned for Democratic Sen. John Kerry on Monday just seven weeks after undergoing heart surgery, telling a crowd of thousands that President Bush and Republicans are trying to "scare the undecided voters" away from the Democratic nominee.
"If this isn't good for my heart, I don't know what is," Clinton said of the enthusiastic response from the lunchtime crowd.
Democratic strategists hoped Clinton's appearance in the final days of the campaign would provide a jolt of excitement that would help energize the Democratic base and attract undecided voters who had supported Clinton.
"From time to time, I have been called the comeback kid. In eight days, John Kerry is going to make America the comeback country," Clinton said to cheers. The former two-term president said he recognized that "no one's presence can change a single vote, but I hope my reasons can affect a few votes."
Republicans are "trying to scare the undecided voters about John Kerry and they're trying to scare the decided voters away from the polls," said Clinton, who also planned a solo campaign event in Florida later on Monday.
He criticized Bush for "more of the same" bad policies.
Clinton and Kerry walked on stage together, with Clinton taking a quick step up as a blizzard of confetti filled the air.
The former president smiled, waved and shook hands with some of those in the crowd at Love Park in downtown Philadelphia. Some supporters waved signs with the number "8," signifying the number of days left to the election.
"Isn't it great to have Bill Clinton back on the trail?" Kerry said, drawing thunderous applause.
Kerry drew cheers of delight when he said that he had asked Clinton "if there's anything you have in common with George W. Bush? He thought for a moment and he said, 'In eight days and 12 hours, we will both be former presidents.'"
Looking thinner but speaking in a strong, but slightly hoarse voice, Clinton assailed Bush on both domestic and national security policy, challenging Bush's management of the war in Iraq and presiding over an economy that has lost jobs.
"Our friends on the other side want a world where they concentrate wealth and power on the far right ... and cooperate with others only when they want to," Clinton said.
"We can do better and in eight days we're going to do better with President John Kerry," Clinton said.
The former president said Kerry turned in "three magnificent performances in those debates." Introducing Kerry, Clinton said, "Bring him on," echoing one of Kerry's signature lines.
Focusing on reports of missing explosives in Iraq, Kerry said the president had failed the test of commander in chief.
Appealing for votes in far-flung battleground states, Kerry earlier in the day signaled to voters in Iowa that he would call a "rural summit" as president to address the difficulties for people in farm states.
"A lot of the folks I met in rural Iowa and other parts of the country, Wisconsin, Minnesota, elsewhere, are feeling a sense of frustration as well as anxiety about their children and their own possibilities. They want to be able to have their kids find a job in the place where they were raised," Kerry said in a conference call with Iowa reporters.
Kerry began his day with a rally in New Hampshire and an attack on Bush for not doing more to prevent the loss of 380 tons of explosives in Iraq, calling it, "one of the great blunders of Iraq, one of the great blunders of this administration."
Clinton, in an interview broadcast Monday on ABC's "Good Morning America," said he talked to his doctors before deciding to campaign.
"I feel good. My chest is normally feeling a little bit tender in the morning but I get up and start moving around and I feel better," he said. "I just sleep and walk, read books, watch baseball, that's what I do."
Asked if he thought Kerry could win, Clinton replied, "I think so, but it's very close."
Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe told CBS' "The Early Show" Monday he believes it's important for Clinton to "be out there talking to the base supporters of this party."
But Republican Party Chairman Ed Gillespie said Clinton's appearance with Kerry was "obviously a sign that Senator Kerry doesn't feel that he's got energized Democrats" and is hoping for "a little charisma transplant" from the former president.