Obama's speech outlines stark choice, two paths for future
CHARLOTTE — President Obama on Thursday night accepted the Democratic Party's nomination for re-election, saying he'll “rebuild this economy on a stronger foundation” in an election that presents the clearest choice for voters in a generation.
To a packed convention hall, Obama, 51, a former Illinois senator who catapulted to the presidency in an electrifying 2008 campaign, said the November election “will be a choice between two different paths for America. A choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future.”
Obama said he just needs more time to improve the economy, the No. 1 issue in the campaign.
“I won't pretend the path I'm offering is quick or easy. I never have. You didn't elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades.”
Republican nominee Mitt Romney told CNN he had no plans to watch the speech if Obama was going to make more promises he won't keep.
National poll averages show Obama in a dead heat with Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and business executive, according to RealClearPolitics.com.
Obama's speech ended a three-day Democratic National Convention packed with rhetoric aimed at blaming the recession on Republicans, touting Obama's programs and searing Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan. The event was moved from an outdoor football stadium to the Time Warner Cable Arena, with storm threats given as the reason.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter ripped Romney on education. Addressing the convention, he said, “his budget would mean fewer teachers and bigger class sizes. It'd mean fewer Pell grants, costing our country millions of college graduates.”
“After Mitt Romney graduated, he became a corporate buyout specialist who closed down steel mills,” Nutter said. “Whose values do you want in the Oval Office? I know who Philly wants, who Pennsylvania wants, who you want. I know who the middle class needs: President Barack Obama.”
Florida retiree Carol Berman, 77, of West Palm Beach, told delegates, “I'm as happy as a clam. It's not just the sunshine; it's Obamacare. I'm getting preventive care for free and my prescription drugs for less. It's pretty great.
“But the Romney-Ryan plan has me terrified, not just for me but for my three daughters who are in their 50s.”
“Americans are tired of President Obama's empty rhetoric and broken promises. They want results,” said Pennsylvania Republican Party spokesman Valerie Caras.
“President Obama has only delivered record-high unemployment, more government, higher taxes and record debt. Mitt Romney is a successful businessman and a leader who knows the economy. President Obama had his shot, and he failed. It's time for a new direction.”
Vice President Joe Biden praised Americans' “grit” in getting through the recession. “In the face of the deepest economic crisis in our lifetimes, this nation proved itself. We're as worthy as any generation that has gone before us.
“The same grit, the same determination, the same courage that has always defined what it's meant to be an American is in you,” he said.
He said Romney believes that in a global economy, “it doesn't much matter where American companies put their money or where they create jobs.”
When Romney takes a “jobs tour, well, with all his support for outsourcing — it's going to have to be a foreign trip,” Biden said.
Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress, a liberal-leaning Harrisburg think tank, said that the convention exceeded his expectations and that he knew Obama in his speech “would knock it out of the park.”
Pennsylvania delegate Patricia Jones, 55, of Union County, said Obama connects with her “when you look at families and value systems.”
“He inherited so many bad things. He's been victimized by the Republican Party,” she said.
Even a stellar performance before a national audience, set up by highly praised prime-time speeches by former President Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama, won't win the election, said James Lee, president of Susquehanna Polling and Research, a Republican Harrisburg-based firm. “Can he have an impact on undecideds? Maybe. I don't think a powerful speech will change that many undecided voters,” which Lee gauges at about 10 percent of the Pennsylvania electorate.
“On the margins, a great acceptance speech might give him a little bit of a boost,” said Christopher Borick, a pollster and political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown. “It could elevate his standing for a short period.”
But deep in the data, there are troubling signs for the incumbent: Obama hasn't cracked 50 percent in job approval ratings or favorability ratings in Pennsylvania, Lee said.
“Obama is a great orator, and by comparison (Bill) Clinton is a communicator at the gut level,” said G. Terry Madonna, attending the convention as an analyst for TV and radio. Obama's delivery is often “soaring rhetoric. You couldn't have him say, ‘aw, shucks.' ”
Obama's tone was confident and upbeat. “Know this, America: Our problems can be solved. Our challenges can be met. The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place. And I'm asking you to choose that future.
“I'm asking you to rally around a set of goals for your country — goals in manufacturing, energy, education, national security and the deficit; a real, achievable plan that will lead to new jobs, more opportunity and rebuild this economy on a stronger foundation.
“That's what we can do in the next four years, and that's why I'm running for a second term as president of the United States.”