The cover story in the latest Newsweek, which hit my mailbox the afternoon before the 42nd president‘s Democratic National Convention speech, offered a fascinating look at changes within the Democratic Party in the nearly 12 years since Bill Clinton left the White House.

For his part, Obama cannot have failed to notice that Clinton has hardly faded from the scene, operating, through his Clinton Global Initiative, what sometimes seems a sort of shadow presidency.

Nor could Obama have been cheered when Clinton complicated the incumbent’s key campaign offensive this spring by declaring Mitt Romney’s business career “sterling,” or when Clinton said that the Bush-era tax rates should be extended, including for the very rich.

But Obama knows that he needs Clinton to lift a convention that many Democrats are pointedly avoiding, and to help rescue an imperiled reelection bid that will be nothing like the relatively easy ride that Clinton enjoyed in 1996.

So, Clinton will be in Charlotte, but Clintonism—that brand of centrist New Democrat politics that helped make him the first president of his party to win reelection since FDR—will be mostly missing. Conservative and centrist Democrats, so critical to Clinton’s efforts to reform welfare, balance the budget, and erase the image of the party as being reflexively anti-business, have nearly vanished.

Follow the “cover story” link above, and you’ll also find a description of the electoral challenge facing U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell of North Carolina’s 8th District, along with former N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt’s strained defense of Obama’s record. (“Hunt has winced over some of the president’s rhetoric, but he stoutly defends Obama to skeptical Carolinians. …”)