CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- President Obama accepted his party’s nomination for a second term and called on Americans to rally around his economic vision in a prime-time address marked by soaring oratory as well as specific goals, promises and benchmarks to win over anxious voters.
Ten times he urged the cheering throngs at the Democratic National Convention and millions more watching at home to make a “choice” for the course he has set, eager to make the November election more than a referendum on his stewardship of the economy, as Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign has argued.
After a brief introduction and an extended kiss by his wife, Michelle, the president sought to reassure voters who may be disappointed that he could not deliver the change he promised four years ago and sought to persuade those still unsure of his leadership.
“If you turn away now, if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn’t possible, well, change will not happen,” he said.
“Yes, our road is longer,” he said, “but we travel it together. We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up.”
Although it rained heavily several hours earlier, a threatened thunderstorm that forced officials to move the speech from an outdoor football stadium to the convention’s indoor arena did not occur. But the party faithful who packed the more intimate hall roared with approval as Obama delivered an upbeat assessment of his accomplishments so far and laid out an ambitious road map for the future.
Though advisors said Obama wasn’t trying to chart a second-term agenda, as in a State of the Union address, he committed himself to several specific goals.
The list was partly a repackaging of previously proposed initiatives, including renewal of a 2011 plan to recruit 100,000 new math and science teachers. His promise to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade was in the last two budgets he sent to Congress.
Obama has unveiled several programs to help revive manufacturing, but his pledge to create 1 million new jobs in the sector was new. He also talked about doubling American exports by the end of 2014 and cutting net oil imports in half by 2020.
The president cast in high relief the contrast between his vision and Romney’s, although he mentioned his Republican rival by name only once.
At times scathing in his criticism, Obama said the Medicare voucher plan endorsed by Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, would leave America’s seniors “at the mercy of insurance companies.” If one can’t afford to go to college, he said archly, “take my opponent’s advice and borrow money from your parents.”
He accused Romney of being dangerously naive on foreign policy, an area where polls show Obama has strong support.
“After all, you don’t call Russia our No. 1 enemy -- and not Al Qaeda -- unless you’re still stuck in a Cold War time warp,” Obama said, mocking statements by Romney. “You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can’t visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally.”
Obama repeatedly sought to rebut Republican charges that he is a big-government liberal, arguing that they were irresponsible for arguing that tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans would somehow cut the deficit. “Do the arithmetic,” he urged.
He described his party’s beliefs in straightforward terms.
“We don’t think government can solve all our problems,” he said. “But we don’t think that government is the source of all our problems.”
Obama warned against blind optimism or wishful thinking, calling for “hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty.”
He closed like a preacher, his voice rising and speeding up into a crescendo that set the crowd onto their feet and shouting.
Now it’s time to draw strength from victories, he said, while also learning the lessons of mistakes.
“We keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon,” he said, “knowing that Providence is with us, and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on Earth.”