CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Obama formally accepted the Democratic nomination for a second term as president Thursday night, as he prepared to ask Americans to stick with him despite a sputtering economy.
"Madam Chairwoman, delegates, I accept your nomination for President of the United States," Obama said at the top of his address.
In his speech, Obama will argue that he’s led the country through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and Franklin Roosevelt — the last sitting president to win reelection with employment over 8 percent.
And he'll contrast his vision with Republican candidate Mitt Romney's polcies to present the election as a clear choice — not a referendum on his four years in office.
"This is the choice we now face," he said. "This is what the election comes down to. Over and over, we have been told by our opponents that bigger tax cuts and fewer regulations are the only way; that since government can’t do everything, it should do almost nothing. If you can’t afford health insurance, hope that you don’t get sick. If a company releases toxic pollution into the air your children breathe, well, that’s just the price of progress. If you can’t afford to start a business or go to college, take my opponent’s advice and “borrow money from your parents.” "You know what?," Obama added. "That’s not who we are. That’s not what this country’s about."
Obama took the stage to roaring cheers from jubilant Democratic delegates packing the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte. His appearance capped a strong week in the Queen City and a celebratory night, as Democrats shrugged off both the economic torpor and a late change that forced the convention to scrap its planned finale in an outdoor football stadium.
Gone was the president’s 2008 slogan, “Change You Can Believe In.” But the delegates, who were entertained all evening by the likes of the Foo Fighters, Mary J. Blige and James Taylor, danced in their seats and filled the gaps in the evening's programming with the president’s rallying cry, “Fired up! Ready to go!” And they met him with an ear-piercing roar when he took to the podium.
In his address, Obama portrays himself as a president who — like Roosevelt — has led the country through tough times and not shied away from hard choices and decisions.
The president’s themes look to build on earlier addresses this week from first lady Michelle Obama and former President Clinton that bookend the president’s address, according to his aides. Michelle Obama on Monday gave a personal address that tied Obama’s values to the everyman, while Clinton said other presidents haven’t faced the challenges of Obama.
“I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy,” Obama plans to say, according to the excerpts of his convention-closing speech. “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.”
In the excerpts, Obama appears to acknowledge the reality of the political polarization that stymied him in the last two years — and which he memorably pledged to transcend in 2008.
He argues his vision for the country will require “common effort, shared responsibility. And the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one.”
Obama will give an unmistakable nod to the anti-government forces that carried Republicans to victory in 2010. Channeling both Roosevelt and the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, Obama said Democrats “should remember that not every problem can be remedied with another government program or dictate from Washington.”
He will argue that voters on Nov. 6 face a choice between two “fundamentally different visions” for the country.
Parts of the speech are expected to have the feel of a State of the Union address. In the remarks, Obama will offer a hefty agenda on manufacturing, energy, education, national security and the deficit, something that his opponent Mitt Romney has yet to outline.
He is expected to call for the creation of one million new manufacturing jobs by the end of 2016 and to double exports by the end of 2014. He will also propose cutting net oil imports in half by 2020 and the “support” of 600,000 natural-gas jobs by 2020.
On education, Obama will propose cutting the growth of college tuition in half over the next decade and to recruit 100,000 math and science teachers in that same time period. He is also proposing the training of two million workers for real jobs at community colleges.
The speech is being delivered in the smaller Time Warner Cable Arena after convention aides moved Obama from the vast Bank of America Stadium because of potential thunderstorms.
During a call earlier in the day with the thousands of supporters who couldn’t be accommodated during the speech, Obama urged them to not let “a little thunder and lightning get us down.”
“We’re gonna have to roll with it,” he said.
“I could not ask you, our volunteers, law enforcement, first-responders to subject themselves to the risk of severe thunderstorms,” he said. “Getting 70,000 people into a place is tough. Getting them out of there is even tougher, and if we had started seeing severe thunderstorms and lightning in particular, it would have been a problem and we would have had a situation where we were putting you guys at risk.”