Charlotte, N.C. –- Barack Obama, the candidate of hope and change four years ago, accepted the Democratic nomination for a second term Thursday, asking America to give him more time to move the nation forward.
“You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve the challenges that have built up over decades,” said Obama, who followed a deep recession into office.
Obama did not abandon a message of hope, asserting that change has arrived in the form of a resurgent manufacturing industry, including a domestic auto industry he helped save with emergency financing for Detroit.
He reminded voters he was elected as war-time president who made promises to restore and safeguard the peace, while hunting the terrorists who plunged America into war.
“Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq. We did,” Obama said. “I promised to refocus on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11. We have.”
Obama said the Taliban’s progress has been blunted in Afghanistan, and he made another promise: “In 2014, our longest war will be over.”
But those accomplishments were only preludes to the line his audience was primed to hear: “A new tower rises above the New York skyline, al Qaeda is on the path to defeat — and Osama bin Laden is dead.”
He followed his vice president, Joseph Biden, who covered the same ground with a blunter vocabulary, praising the president for the compassion and wisdom to save Detroit and the determination to condemn bin Laden.
“This man has courage in his soul, compassion in his heart and a spine of steel,” Biden said. Then, he, too, gave the partisan crowd the line it wanted: “Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive.”
The night was the close of a disciplined, three-day series of speeches that drew sharp contrasts with Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and entrepreneur.
At every turn, speakers reminded that Romney, the son of auto executive and Michigan governor, was willing to let Detroit go it alone.
Biden said Romney didn’t get it. Obama did.
“It wasn’t about the cars. It was about the people who built those cars,” Biden said.
Romney saw Detroit as data to evaluate, balance sheets and write-offs, he said.
“That’s not the way to lead our country from the highest office,” he said.
Unlike the GOP convention in Tampa, which meandered in its message, too often straying from stories and speeches that would bond Romney with the electorate, the Democratic convention built steadily to Obama’s entrance into the crowded Time Warner Cable Arena after 10 p.m.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Rep. John B. Larson of Connecticut said before the speech that the delegates would leave Charlotte with a better sense of how to convince voters that they should return Obama to office.
Delegates like Donna King of Norwalk said they were feeling a sense of nervousness from their Democratic friends about the indictments of Obama made in Tampa.
“The lies that came out of Tampa were a real concern. It’s easy to bumper sticker a lie,” she said.
But Bill Clinton made a spirited rebuttal Wednesday night, echoes of which could be heard in the speeches of Biden and Obama on Thursday.
Democrats abandoned their original plan to move several blocks away, leaving the confines of an NBA arena for a 73,000-seat NBA stadium.
DNC officials said they were unwilling to risk rain, while the GOP suggested their bigger fear was empty seats.
If the change denied the Democrats their promise to open and close their convention with wide access to the general public, the president seemed well-served by the smaller venue.
By design, his message was smaller than four years ago, less abstract and more concrete. He wants to double exports by the end of 2014 and create one million manufacturing jobs by the end of 2016.
He promised to cut net oil imports and create domestic natural gas jobs, begin to recruit 100,000 math and science teachers, and tackle the inflation of college tuition that threatens to undermine the middle class.
Obama, who was elected president after just four years in the Senate, making history as the nation’s first African American to win the White House, did not shy from soaring oratory.
He offered himself as chastened, a leader who has made mistakes, but a man who has a sense of America, its problems and its potential, still a believer in hope.
As he did four years ago, Obama suggested that voters should demand a president with aspirations and vision.
“America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won’t promise that now. Yes, our path is hard, but it leads to a better place. Yes, our road is longer, but we travel it together,” he said.
“We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up,” he said.
The crowd began to drown his words with applause that echoed through the arena.
“We draw strength from our victories, and we learn from our mistakes,” Obama said.
“But we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon, knowing that Providence is with us, and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on Earth.”