But today, as millions of voters watched and with the political stakes as high as they've ever been, Bill Clinton tried to make sense of it all and make the case for his wife, the newly minted Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
"In the spring of 1971, I met a girl," he began.
The former president's tenth address to a Democratic convention was by far his most personal, a 42-minute tour through wedding proposals and Halloween parties, the deaths of parents and movie marathons.
Instead, Bill Clinton cast himself as a passenger in his wife's life, reshaping the story of much of their decades in politics.
The goal was to make Clinton, perhaps the most famous female politician in the world, yet a public figure her aides claim remains unknown, relatable to voters. He cast her as a liberal heroine of her own story, who fought for education reform, health care, civil rights, the disabled, 9/11 first responders and economically depressed rural areas.
"She's the best darn change-maker I've ever met in my entire life," he said. "This woman has never been satisfied with the status quo on anything. She always wants to move the ball forward. That is just who she is."
He never once mentioned GOP nominee Donald Trump by name, dismissing Republican attacks on Clinton as "made up" and a "cartoon alternative." Rather, Bill Clinton focused nearly exclusively on his wife's achievements and how she'd influenced him.
"I have lived a long full blessed life. It really took off when I met and fell in love with that girl in the spring of 1971," he said.
But it wasn't only Clinton who broke a glass ceiling on Tuesday when she became the first female nominee of a major party. Should she win on Election Day, her husband will step into a singular role in American history: first gentleman.
The potential new title is perhaps the strangest twist in a political career known for its second acts. After health scares and political missteps, the Comeback Kid, as he was known in his first presidential race, could come back to Washington one last time.
In 2012, he acted as a powerful validator for President Barack Obama, electrifying the room as the party's "explainer-in-chief."
But, said Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, "This is different."
"This is more personal," said Podesta, who recalled riding to the convention hall with Bill Clinton as he touched up his 2004 convention address. "This is more about her."
Bill Clinton felt pressure to perform for his wife and make up for his own missteps during her second presidential campaign.
Nearly 70, he's also a bit frailer, a touch shakier, though aides and friends say his famous memory remains sharp. Some say his administration's legacy has been repudiated by his own party, which shifted left during Obama's time in office.
"God bless him, Bill even looks old now," said Republican strategist Alex Castellanos. "He's not the once and future king, he's the once and past king."
But no one doubts that Bill Clinton still wants to be at the center of the action. While aides have said he will not get a Cabinet post or a seat in the Situation Room should his wife win, Clinton has made clear that her closest adviser will remain involved with her administration, saying he'd likely have a role in managing the nation's economy.
They remain a "two for one" package, as Bill Clinton famously said during his first presidential race. But on Tuesday night, he hinted, just barely, that Clinton perhaps is finally getting her part of the deal.
"I married my best friend," he said. "And I really hoped that she choosing me and rejecting my own advice to pursue her own career was a decision she'd never regret."
• Today's theme is A Lifetime of Fighting for Children and Families.
• Speakers have focused on nominee Hillary Clinton's biography.
• The key speaker is former President Bill Clinton.
• Mothers of the Movement, parents of young black victims of violence, made a moving appeal.
• There will be a performance by Alicia Keys and appearances from Meryl Streep and Lena Dunham.
3pm: Journalist Michael Weiss:
"Drop her in any trouble spot. Name one." Mmmm. Syria? Afghanistan? Yemen? She'd make those places better in a month? Really?— Michael Weiss (@michaeldweiss) July 27, 2016
2.52pm: Some Bill Clinton quotes:
"A real change-maker represents a real threat. So you're only option is to create a cartoon, then run against a cartoon."\
"She will never quit when the going gets tough. she will not quit on you."
"If you're a Muslim and you love America, stay here and help us win."
"You can drop her in any trouble spot, and a month later she will have made things better."
"Life in the real world is complicated and real change is hard."
2.47pm: Clinton asks how do you square the different pictures of his wife offered by the two conventions. His answer is you can't: "One is real the other is made up". He told the crowd: "You nominated the real one".
2.36pm: Bill Clinton says Hillary Clinton is the "best darn change-maker I ever met". He said "she always wants to move the ball forward".
2.27pm: Clinton is talking about his problems of getting Hillary to marry him. He had to buy a house and try three times to propose. "I married my best friend," he said.
2.22pm: Bill Clinton is talking about his wife's early activism on children's issues, incarceration, legal aid and registering Hispanic voters.
2.42pm: Reporter Greg Sargent
Crucial line: "She always wants to move the ball forward. That's. Just. Who. She. Is." Message: Relentless but likeable.— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) July 27, 2016
2.15pm: Former President Bill Clinton has begun his speech by describing his nervous first meeting with his future wife as a law student at Yale University in 1971. "I met a girl." He says Hillary walked over to him in a library and said "if you're going to keep staring at me" they may as well introduce themselves. They went for a walk and "we've been walking and talking and laughing together ever since".
2.10pm: A video playing about Bill Clinton before he gave his speech features people thanking the former President for what he accomplished during his two terms. The video highlights his White House achievements. People interviewed in the video say Clinton's presidency empowered them to get out of poverty, pay off debts and buy houses.The video says that Clinton created 23 million jobs, signed the Family and Medical Leave Act and gave historic tax relief to working poor families.
1.58pm: Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is talking about Clinton's performance as Secretary of State and foreign policy. "She knows that safeguarding freedom and security is not like hosting a TV reality show." Albright says Trump has a strange admiration for dictators and his election would be a gift to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
1.48pm: Reporter Alec MacGillis of ProPublica notes:
"I wish everyone could get to know Hillary's heart as I do." Odd to hear these sorts of lines coming about someone in public eye for 25 yrs.— Alec MacGillis (@AlecMacGillis) July 27, 2016
1.30pm: The Washington Post reports that Hillary Clinton has made a strategic calculation to present an optimistic view of America and its place in the world, betting that voters will reject what her campaign calls the inaccurate fear-mongering of Republican nominee Donald Trump. But it says some Democrats worry that the contrast could help Trump make up in rhetoric for a lack of traditional national security credentials. "My hope is that people will see through this," said Michèle Flournoy, a former senior Pentagon official under President Barack Obama and a Clinton supporter. "It's policy by bumper sticker. There will be some people who will find the strength of his rhetoric very appealing."
1.27pm: "This was not a convention. This was a four-day Hillary party. And we weren't welcome," said Liz Maratea, a New Jersey delegate at the media tent protest. "We were treated like lepers."
1.20pm: Bernie Sanders delegates and supporters have ended their sit-in inside a media tent at the convention site, while protests outside have calmed down, too. Police detained Sanders supporters who climbed the 2.5m fences at the edge of the secure zone. Groups of protesters, with a banner that read "RIP DNC," have begun marching back up Broad Street toward Philadelphia's City Hall, where a number of marches originated earlier in the day.
1.15pm: There is constant reinforcement in the stories about what the speakers say is Clinton's toughness, loyalty, going the extra mile and follow-through. For example Lauren Manning, injured in the 9/11 attacks, says: "When I needed her she was there". Several speakers paid tribute to Clinton for her work - while she was a New York senator - in helping New Yorkers after the attacks of September 11, 2001. The testimonials came from a New York City police detective, a New York congressman and Manning who spent more than six months in the hospital after recovering from severe burns in the attack.
1.10pm: Senator Barbara Boxer of California said of Clinton: "They've thrown everything at her, and she's still standing."
1pm: Lena Denham's entrance is hard to beat, saying that Donald Trump would probably consider her body to be a two. Together with America Ferrera she said: "Let's declare: Love trumps hate". Ferrera said: that according to Donald Trump, "I'm probably a rapist". She added: "Donald is not making America great again. He's making America hate again."
12.25pm: A video is shown of Mothers of the Movement, mothers of young black children who died in violence. These women have campaigned for Hillary Clinton across the country in recent months, advocating for criminal justice reforms and gun control. Those on stage were the mothers of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Jordan Davis, Dontre Hamilton, Sandra Bland and Hadiya Pendleton. Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland, who was found hanged in a Texas jail cell last year after her arrest during a traffic stop, says the loss of children is a "loss that diminishes" everyone. Reed-Veal said: "I am here with Hillary Clinton tonight because she is a leader and a mother who will say our children's names". Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, says "this isn't about being politically correct, it's about saving our children". She said the presidential nominee "is a mother who can assure our movement will succeed".
12.56pm: President Barack Obama's former strategist David Axelrod:
Amazing to see these two conventions back to back and how starkly different they are in every way. #DNCinPHL— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) July 27, 2016
12.15pm: President Barack Obama says experts have attributed the Democratic National Committee hack to the Russians, and he says the FBI continues to investigate. Obama says this incident aside, the Russians "hack our systems". He says they hack both government systems and private systems. Obama told NBC News that he can't say what the motives were in leaking thousands of DNC emails. But he says Republican Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin. He says Trump has been covered favourably by the Russian media. Asked whether Russia could have leaked the emails to help Trump, Obama said, "Anything's possible."
12.21pm Washington Post reporter Philip Rucker's take on the two conventions:
Cleveland was a convention of adjectives - the greatest, the richest. Philly is a convention of anecdotes, a night of Hillary stories.— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) July 26, 2016
12.10pm: Former Attorney-General Eric Holder says there should be "no tension" between protecting and properly equipping the police and the police treating the people they serve with "dignity, respect and fairness".
12.00pm: Pupils from a Bronx school recite the Invictus poem by English poet William Ernest Henley which inspired Nelson Mandela.
11.53am: The acting Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile said she had never seen a leader as committed to helping people as Hillary Clinton. Brazile roused the convention by saying "kids, you've got a champion!" in Clinton. She spoke about the "steel in her spine" saying "us southern girls we don't mess around". She said: "I sat at the back of the bus at a time when America wasn't yet as great as it could be."
11.40am: Elizabeth Banks tells the audience that last week's Republican convention reminded the actress of her dystopian Hunger Games series. "Hey, that's my act," she says.
.@ElizabethBanks channeled her inner Trump for her hilarious #DemsInPhilly entrance https://t.co/YwNtYgZLWt pic.twitter.com/szvnWcELiM— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) July 27, 2016
11.38am: A large group of Bernie Sanders' supporters left the convention hall in Philadelphia to hold a sit-in protest at a nearby tent for journalists. Some supporters had their mouths taped shut. A few others sang "this land is our land" and held a banner that read, "We The People". They say they're holding a peaceful protest to complain about being shut out by the Democratic Party. One protester is 64-year-old Talat Khan, of San Bernardino, California. He says: "It's for the betterment of our children and the future of our children."
11.35am: Hillary Clinton's nomination was a huge moment for people around her. Former President Bill Clinton tweeted: "So proud of you, Hillary. #DemsInPhilly". Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, vice-chair Huma Abedin and media adviser Jim Margolis exchanged hugs after the news was announced.
11.27am: Former President Jimmy Carter speaks by video. He says Sanders supporters need to "stay engaged, stay involved". He says Hillary Clinton would be a "steady hand" in "perilous times".
11:10am: Not everyone is happy.
Bernie Sanders supporters stage a walkout at the DNC after Clinton becomes nominee #DemsInPhilly https://t.co/XlIaDtCbPH— Kayla Epstein (@KaylaEpstein) July 26, 2016
11.06am: The final tally was Clinton 2842 delegates, Sanders 1865.
11am: Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, a long-time Clinton friend, talks about that relationship referring to the Clintons travelling through a blizzard to attend his father's funeral. But he also hits hard at Donald Trump saying the Democrats need to send him "back to his bankrupt casinos where he belongs".
10:56am: Pharrell Williams' Happy plays.
10:52am: Bernie Sanders gets a massive cheer as his home state Vermont votes. A chant of "Bernie" goes up. Sanders asks Democrats to nominate her by acclimation. Sanders moves that Clinton is chosen as nominee. He said: "Madam chair, I move that the convention suspend the procedural rules. I move that all votes, all votes cast by delegates, be reflected in the official record, and I move that Hillary Clinton be selected as the nominee of the Democratic Party for president of the United States".
Bernie Sanders moves to nominate Hillary Clinton by a voice vote https://t.co/TAG0SqRvbP #DemsInPhilly https://t.co/fKZ5xxCmYV— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) July 26, 2016
10:42am: HILLARY CLINTON BECOMES THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE
10:36am: Jerry Emmett was born before women gained the right to vote in America, so it's fitting she announced that the Arizona delegation was casting 51 of its 85 votes for Hillary Clinton for president. Emmett is 102 years old and from Prescott, Arizona. She remembers seeing her mother go to vote for the first time after the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote was ratified on August 18, 1920. Emmett is legally blind and doesn't hear very well, but she says she walks about 1.5km a day and still bakes pies. She says she was thrilled to be at the convention - where she carried a blue-and-white sign that read: "Centenarian for Hillary."
10:35am: "Home of the best restaurants in the country" Rhode Island.
10:21am: New York, "the empire state", gets bragging rights as the "home of the next president of the United States Hillary Clinton". The roll call is a wonderful tag-team homage to the best features of each state that can be packed into about three sentences.
10.18am: Now Breaking Bad gets a mention from the New Mexico delegation.
10.06am: The late, great Prince and Purple Rain got a shout out from Minnesota during the state roll call.
10.05am: A lifelong friend of Hillary Clinton's announced Illinois' vote for president. "This one is for you, Hill," Betsy Ebeling said in announcing that Illinois had given 98 delegates to Clinton. Ebeling said it's in honour of "Dorothy and Hugh's daughter and my sweet friend". Ebeling was a childhood friend of Clinton's in suburban Chicago.
9.56am: Bernie Sanders got his brother's vote. Larry Sanders says he's casting that vote with what he calls "enormous pride". Larry Sanders addressed the convention during the roll call, speaking as a member of the Americans Abroad delegation. Larry Sanders lives in Britain.
9.53am: When Bill Clinton takes the stage this afternoon for his 10th address to a Democratic convention, the ex-President, husband and party standard-bearer will step into a singular role in American history: potential first gentleman. It isn't only Hillary Clinton who is breaking a glass ceiling this week. Should she win on Election Day, her husband will becomes both the first male to be a first spouse and the first former President to reoccupy the White House from the East Wing. Bill Clinton's potential new title is perhaps the strangest twist in a political career known for its second acts. After health scares and political missteps, the Comeback Kid, as he was known in his first presidential race, could come back to Washington one last time.
9.45am: Ashley Judd has joined a group marching against police brutality in Philadelphia.The political activist and actress stopped on Broad Street with tears in her eyes while watching the protest and then accepted a "Black Lives Matter" sign from the Philly REAL Justice group and joined in. The group is marching from near Temple University, in north Philadelphia, south on Broad Street to City Hall. There, they'll meet up with another group decrying police brutality and economic injustice and then move down to a park near the convention site. Organisers from the group told white protesters to move to the back of the demonstration, saying the action is "a black and brown resistance march". Some in the crowd chanted "Don't vote for Hillary (Clinton), she's killing black people."
9.36am: The delegates are putting on a boisterous show of unity with both Sanders and Clinton being loudly cheered during the roll call. Yesterday protest chants were audible.
9.32am: Unmoved by Bernie Sanders' plea for party unity behind Hillary Clinton, several hundred Sanders supporters chanting "Bernie or bust!" took to the streets under the hot sun for another round of protests. They held a rally at City Hall, then made their way down Broad Street to the convention site. A crowd of thousands had gathered outside the subway station closest to the Wells Fargo Centre. The crowd consisted of an assortment of protesters espousing a variety of causes, but mostly Sanders supporters and other Clinton foes on the left. Some gathered around a radio to hear what was happening inside the hall, and when Clinton's name was placed in nomination, a chant of "Nominate Sanders!" went up.
9.30am: Vice-President Joe Biden says the most ardent of Bernie Sanders' supporters will eventually end up voting for Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump. Biden told reporters at the convention that he doesn't think the Democratic Party is fractured. He says Sanders' supporters have changed the party in a positive way. He says they just need a little time to get over the fact that Clinton is the presumptive presidential nominee. And Biden tells ABC that those supporters aren't going to pull the lever for Trump "for God's sake".
9.25am: The roll call vote of states begins.
9.15am: Georgia Congressman John Lewis says the party will shatter the glass ceiling again with the election of Clinton, as it did with the election of President Barack Obama. He talks about struggling people who haven't had pay increases and students dealing with debt. Clinton, he says, will be a "uniter" who will "break down the barriers". He tells the convention the nation had made "too much progress and we are not going back".
9.10am: The first speaker in the roll call to support Hillary Clinton is Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski who describes the candidate as "duty driven". Mikulski was the first Democratic woman to be elected to the Senate in her own right.
9am: The nomination process is underway in the convention arena with delegates speaking in support of defeated candidate Bernie Sanders. Supporters of Sanders plan to support him during the roll call. But the Vermont senator has acknowledged he won't have enough delegates to win the nomination. Thousands of Sanders supporters and protesters are rallying near one of the entrances.
8.55am: "She fights for everything Donald Trump fights against," says Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, characterising Hillary Clinton as a fighter for the powerless. She dubs Trump an "unqualified bully". She's stressing Clinton's support for equal pay for women, voting rights, affordable healthcare and pensions for retired coal miners. Grimes describes Clinton as a family-oriented grandmother who enjoys watching HGTV and eating Buffalo wings. A chant of "Hillary!" goes up at the end.
8.45am: Former Senator Tom Harkin of New York kicks off the day with a speech about the rights of people with disabilities. It is the 26th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.