By Laura MacInnis
MCLEAN, Virginia (Reuters) - Former U.S. president Bill Clinton campaigned alongside Barack Obama for the first time in the 2012 race on Sunday, making an impassioned appeal to re-elect the White House incumbent and helping his fellow Democrat raise more than $2 million.
A white-haired and noticeably svelte Clinton, 65, pounded the podium with his fingers and palms and gestured vividly while addressing about 500 Obama supporters outside the Virginia home of his friend and Democratic advisor Terry McAuliffe.
"Barack Obama deserves to be re-elected," Clinton told the crowd in his signature raspy voice, warmly introducing the man who was the main rival to his wife Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential primaries.
"I think he's done a good job," Clinton said. "We are moving this country forward, we are going the right direction under President Obama's leadership."
When he took the outdoor podium, Obama, 50, noted Clinton's "remarkable" economic record in his two White House terms and referred frequently to the political powerhouse standing behind him, who stands to be a huge fundraising force in the final months of this year's campaign.
"I didn't run for president simply to get back to where we were in 2007. I didn't run for president simply to restore the status quo before the financial crisis. I ran for president because we had lost our way since Bill Clinton was done being president," Obama said.
The Obama campaign is keen to seize on the former Democratic president's popularity to help raise money and sell Obama's economic message to voters who may be receptive to Republican criticisms of his economic leadership, given U.S. unemployment is still relatively high and growth appears to be slowing.
Last week, the Obama campaign also released a video of the former president praising Obama for his decision to approve the raid that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden last year.
Neither Obama nor Clinton referred to George W. Bush, the Republican who served two presidential terms in between their tenures, nor the presumptive Republican nominee for this year's White House race, Mitt Romney, by name in their outdoor remarks.
But Clinton said Obama's White House opponent this year wanted to revert to the policies that got the United States into crisis, but "on steroids," and said that would cause far worse economic problems than those that erupted in 2007.
Clinton also applauded Obama's efforts in healthcare, clean energy promotion and student loan reform, and argued the U.S. economy was rebounding quickly from the financial and mortgage crises that took hold before Obama took office.
"The man's not Houdini, all he can do is beat the clock," he said, comparing the pace of U.S. recovery to Japan's extended weakness after its own crisis. "The last thing you want to do is to turn around and embrace the policies that got us into trouble in the first place."
Tickets to the outdoor reception cost $1,000 and up, and Obama and Clinton later addressed a more exclusive dinner at McAuliffe's home for 80 people who paid $20,000 each. The money went to a fund supporting Obama's re-election, the Democratic National Committee and several state Democratic parties.
(Editing by Paul Simao)