As President Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for re-election Thursday night before an adoring crowd, he acknowledged Americans' frustration with the sluggish recovery and said it will take a united effort to fully restore the economy and cut the federal deficit. He also cast Republican nominee Mitt Romney in sharp relief, arguing that his plans for tax cuts and budget reductions would take the country backward. While it was not Obama's strongest performance, he effectively described the differences in the approaches of two candidates locked in a tight race.
Obama's speech capped the three-day Democratic National Convention that framed the campaign as a choice between Republican policies that would undercut the middle class and an Obama second term that would help revive it. "I won't pretend the path I'm offering is quick or easy. … The truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades,'' the president said. "It 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 defended investments in education and the auto industry. He embraced renewable energy, noting its import in addressing climate change. And he offered a harsh critique of Romney on everything from energy and foreign policy to debt reduction and a plan to create Medicare vouchers.
But like Romney last week in Tampa, Obama fell short in specifics on several of his pledges. He wants to create 1 million manufacturing jobs in four years, double exports in two years, cut energy imports in half by 2020, increase natural gas production and further education investments. He wants to recruit 100,000 more math and science teachers in 10 years, train 2 million adults for jobs and cut the growth in college tuition in half over the next decade. And he pledged to cut the deficit by $4 trillion and reinvest money now spent on wars into the economy. It will be left to the presidential debates that start next month to flesh out the details.
Obama's speech came a day after former President Bill Clinton's impressive performance defending Obama and critiquing Romney's positions. Clinton described this week how the House Republican budget plan conceived by Romney running mate Paul Ryan would hurt the middle class: Seniors in nursing homes and families with disabled children would lose services under Medicaid changes; college students would see reductions in federal financial aid and early childhood education; and there would be less money for everything from roads to medical research.
Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who left the Republican Party two years ago, argued that Obama looks beyond partisanship to solve problems. Crist cited the federal stimulus that kept thousands of Florida teachers and police officers employed, the administration's reaction to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and its defense of Medicare and Social Security. It was an effective pitch aimed more at independent and moderate voters than the Democrats in attendance.
The Democrats staged a convention that was remarkably upbeat. It contrasted sharply with last week's Republican convention in Tampa, where the mood was more subdued and the focus was on defeating Obama rather than embracing Romney. Republicans concentrated on the federal debt, reducing government and promoting individualism. Democrats appealed to diversity by embracing immigration reform, gay rights and abortion rights. They focused on investment and opportunity and insisted America's greatness rested in its people coming together, including through government.
Those are two clearly different views of the role of government and of the nation's future, and voters will have a clear choice in November.
This editorial has been revised to reflect the following correction: President Barack Obama wants to reduce the federal deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade. An editorial published Friday used an incorrect amount.