President Obama successfully delivered what will be his final convention speech as a candidate when he formally accepted the Democratic presidential nomination Thursday night.
The president followed two very tough acts from earlier in the week. First Lady Michelle Obama lovingly delivered a speech on Tuesday that reminded voters why they fell for the president in 2008. Then on Wednesday, former President Bill Clinton made a masterful argument for four more years.
The baton was passed to Obama, who reinforced the points made by his wife and his Democratic predecessor. He also needed to outline a blueprint for the future that is both compelling and convincing.
Did he meet the challenge? Time will tell, but based on the sometimes thunderous response, the audience of about 20,000 people gathered in the Time Warner Cable Arena seemed persuaded.
The president conceded early that the hope Americans had when they elected him four years ago has been sorely tested, but the choice between him and Republican rival Mitt Romney is very clear.
Continuing the theme he's honed on the campaign trail during the past few months, Obama charged that the Republican Party is offering nothing new and instead plans to rely on what he believes are failed economic policies that helped land the nation in a recession four years ago.
"Have a surplus? Try a tax cut. Deficit too high? Try another. Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations and call us in the morning," he said, ticking off examples of how it would adversely impact small businesses and the middle class.
And while the path he's offering "may be harder," he said, it will lead the nation to a better place.
The president also double-downed on his commitment to not reduce the deficit on the backs of the middle class and those who have the least. He did, however, express a willingness to find common ground with Republican leaders.
"But when Gov. Romney and his friends in Congress tell us that we can somehow lower our deficit by spending trillions more on new tax breaks for the wealthy — well, you do the math," he said. "I refuse to go along with that. And as long as I'm president, I never will."
Obama's plan calls for more control of the nation's energy sources; investments in education, which he called the "gateway to a middle class life"; affordable higher education; and an end to American engagement in war.
"After two wars that have cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, it's time to do some nation building right here at home," he said.
Taking a dig at Romney's lack of foreign policy experience, he said, "I'm no longer a just a candidate, I'm the president. I know what it means to send young Americans into battle, for I have held in my arms the mothers and fathers of those who didn't return. I've shared the pain of families who've lost their homes, and the frustration of workers who've lost their jobs."
As his graying head illustrates, the president acknowledged what a burden being the world's most powerful leader can sometimes be.
"While I'm proud of what we've achieved together, I'm far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, 'I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place to go,'" he said.
The president said he still has some of the hope he espoused when he made his national debut during the Democrats' convention in 2004, but attributed his optimism to the American people whose "spirit defines us."
In a final plea for a second term, Obama emphasized his theory that we're all in this together.
"Yes, our road is harder, but it leads to a better place. Yes, our road is longer, but we travel it together. We don't turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up," he said.
Before Obama finished his remarks, Romney issued a statement.
“Tonight President Obama laid out the choice in this election, making the case for more of the same policies that haven't worked for the past four years. He offered more promises, but he hasn’t kept the promises he made four years ago," he said. "Americans will hold President Obama accountable for his record — they know they’re not better off and that it’s time to change direction. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will restore America’s promise and deliver a better future for our country.”
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(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)