Democratic convention: Obama lays out election choice

 
US President Barack Obama accepts the Democratic presidential nomination 6 September 2012 Barack Obama said the hope he spoke of in 2004 and 2008 had been tested since by the great difficulties and uncertainty

US President Barack Obama has told voters they face a generational choice in November's election, as he accepted the nomination of the Democratic party.

He highlighted the differences between his aims and Republican policies, and reprised his 2008 theme of "hope".

"I never said this journey would be easy, and I won't promise that now," Mr Obama told the Democratic convention.

Republican Mitt Romney is challenging Mr Obama for the White House, with polls showing a tight race.

The two rivals now face two months of campaigning before US voters go to the polls on 6 November.

Mr Obama told delegates in the hall and voters watching at home that the nation's problems had built up over decades and could not be fixed in a flash.

"But when you pick up that ballot to vote - you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation.

"Over the next few years, big decisions will be made in Washington: on jobs and the economy; taxes and deficits; energy and education; war and peace - decisions that will have a huge impact on our lives and our children's lives for decades to come," he said.

Venue change

Mr Obama took to the stage not in a huge arena in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, as organisers had hoped, but inside the convention centre after Thursday's speech was moved because of weather concerns.

He followed a rousing speech by Vice-President Joe Biden, who praised Mr Obama for his bravery in bailing out the auto industry and ordering the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

The president offered a string of critiques of Republican policies, describing his opponents as "happy to talk about everything they think is wrong with America" without offering suggestions on how to make things right.

"That's because all they have to offer is the same prescription they've had for the last 30 years," he said.

"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!"

But there was no mention of his own healthcare law, a signature achievement that remains unpopular with many Americans, and little explicit talk of the stimulus enacted in his first months in office.

The speech prompted a response from Mr Romney's camp: "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," his campaign said in a statement after the speech.

"He offered more promises, but he hasn't kept the promises he made four years ago."

Fired-up Biden

Mr Obama also spoke about his energy strategy, saying the US had opened "millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration... and we'll open more".

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This was no game changer”

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"But unlike my opponent, I will not let oil companies write this country's energy plan, or endanger our coastlines, or collect another $4bn in corporate welfare from our taxpayers."

On international issues, the president described Mr Romney and running-mate Paul Ryan as "new to foreign policy".

"But from all that we've seen and heard, they want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly," he said, highlighting his success with Bin Laden and his withdrawal of troops from Iraq and planned drawdown from Afghanistan.

As Mr Obama finished the speech, he roused the crowd by telling them their votes had helped make the changes of his presidency.

"Only you have the power to move us forward," he said. "I recognise that times have changed since I first spoke to this convention. The times have changed - and so have I. I'm no longer just a candidate. I'm the president."

Earlier, Vice-President Biden accepted his own re-nomination in an emotional speech that focused on family and national security.

"Folks, I've watched him," he said of the president. "He never wavers. He steps up.

Barack Obama - press reaction

David Brooks, in the New York Times, said "the speech was dominated by unexplained goals that were often worthy, but also familiar and incommensurate with the problems at hand".

According to the Washington Post's Greg Sargent, Obama's focus on citizenship and shared responsibility was "a gamble that voters will not cast their vote on the current economy alone".

Politico's Glenn Thrush said the president offered "a hybrid of gritted-teeth optimism, hammer-blow attacks on Romney's foreign policy inexperience, and relatively modest policy goals".

Writing in USA Today, Richard Wolf and David Jackson said "rather than propose new initiatives, the goals were mostly retreads and the means of achieving them elusive".

"He asks the same thing over and over again: How is this going to work for ordinary families? Will it help them?"

Mr Biden also criticised Mr Romney for not backing the US auto industry bailout, referring to the former Massachusetts governor's time leading private equity firm Bain Capital.

"I just don't think he understood what saving the automobile industry meant, to all of America. I think he saw it the Bain way, in terms of balance sheets and write-offs," he said.

"The Bain way may bring your firm the highest profit. But it's not the way to lead your country from its highest office."

The third and final night of speeches in Charlotte also saw former Florida Governor Charlie Crist - who was previously a Republican - and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry address the convention.

Mr Kerry criticised Mitt Romney for surrounding himself with "neo-conservative advisers who know all the wrong things about foreign policy".

"This is not the time to outsource the job of commander in chief," the Massachusetts senator said.

Former Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords, still recovering from a near-fatal shooting on a meeting with her constituents in 2011, appeared on stage to lead the convention in the pledge of allegiance.

Walking slowly and steadying herself to recite the pledge, Ms Giffords left many in the crowd dewy-eyed as she smiled through her recital.

Thursday's speeches brought an end to the Democratic convention, which also headlined speeches from Michelle Obama and former President Bill Clinton.

 

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