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Clinton on Obama: 'We haven't been close friends' but he knows I support him

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Clinton then added that he appreciated that Obama had been challenged by "the real world."

"I'm actually more enthusiastic about it than I was four years ago when I said I thought he was ready to be president, because I've seen him dig in the dirt and fight for change, I've seen him make things happen, I've seen him criticized, demonized, knock[ed] down," Clinton said. "I've seen him deal with the fact that he's dealing with things for the first time he’s never dealt with before, learn and keep coming."

Clinton also alluded to a bond between former presidents who understood the challenges of the jobs.

"It is, from my point of view, not a transaction or a bromance or any of that sort of stuff. There's a few people who have been presidents," Clinton said. "He's the first Democrat to serve since I left office. He's had a very tough hand to play."

But during his answer, Clinton also alluded to the way Obama had interacted with his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"I'm very grateful also just as a person for the way he and Hillary have interacted," Clinton said. "He's treated her with enormous respect, he's respected her opinion ... he’s run a national security operation that’s been really good for this country, I think. So I think, you know, I would say our relationship is good."

The ensuing discussion prompted Williams to ask whether part of Clinton's motivations in his prime-time address Wednesday night were to set the groundwork for another attempt at the presidency for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Clinton quickly pivoted away from the question, but did not seem to rule out a run.

"You know, she — we're not kids anymore. I don't have any idea if she'll ever run again," Clinton said. "She says she won't. Right now, I want to help him because I think it'll help my country. Because I believe America is going to do great."

Previewing that address, Clinton said he would actually do the "reverse" of what Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan predicted at a campaign stop in Iowa on Wednesday. Ryan said he believed audiences would hear much about the economic successes of the 1990s, and little about the current president's record.

"I'm going to say very little about the 1990s and when I was president … That's not what this is about," Clinton said. "This is about the choice for the American people. I want them to know what, based on my experience, I believe the president has done, where I think we are and why I think they should support him. And that's what I'm going to focus on. I'm going to say very little about what happened in the '90s."

Clinton also said he would look to defend the president's record and the pace of the economic recovery.

"I'm going to explain and support the stimulus bill, the financial regulation bill, the student loan reform bill, the healthcare bill," Clinton said. "And try to say why this — these are the building blocks of a new American prosperity. That's what I've got to do. I've gotta convince people that even though they don't feel it, it's there and it would be a bad mistake to reverse course."

Clinton also critiqued the Republican ticket, calling Mitt Romney "dogged and determined" to win the nomination.

"In the process, he committed himself to a politics that was well to the right of where he had governed as governor," Clinton said. "And well to the right of any president we've had in a long time."

But, Clinton said, that put Romney "sorta in the wheelhouse of where Paul Ryan has been" on the issues.

"Paul Ryan's a — you know, appealing guy, small town story, smart guy. And a great devotee apparently of Ayn Rand," Clinton said. "He said, you know, that we're in a great contest between individualism and collectivism. But I don't agree with that."

"I think we're in a great contest between hyper-individualism and what I would call communitarianism," the former president continued. "Do you think we're all in this together or should it be every person for himself?"