Can he win them over again? Barack Obama's uphill climb begins

President's election team set out to catch up with Romney – but stumble over their man's economic record

Charlotte, North Carolina

On the eve of their convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, which is billed as a riposte to last week's Republican extravaganza in Tampa, Democrats were struggling to extricate themselves from quicksand yesterday and answer the charge that ordinary Americans are worse off now than they were four years ago.

The normally disciplined Democratic machine was in urgent damage-control mode after three of its top lieutenants seemed to stumble over the weekend when challenged in television interviews to answer the question that is at the heart of this election: has life improved in the four years since President Barack Obama was elected?

"No," was the initial response of Governor Martin O'Malley, of Maryland, when it was put to him on Sunday by one interviewer. Two other leading Obama aides, David Plouffe and David Axelrod, also seemed to prevaricate on the matter.

"The average American recognises that it took years to create the crisis that erupted in 2008 and peaked in January of 2009," Mr Axelrod said. "And it's gonna take some time to work through it."

The Democrats are set to kick off tonight with Michelle Obama taking the podium to bolster the already significant advantage that the party ticket has among women. A similar task to fence in Hispanic voters will be left to Julian Castro, the Mayor of San Antonio, Texas. A fast-rising star in the party, he will fill tonight's important keynote slot, the same one given to Mr Obama at the 2004 Democratic convention when he instantly became a national figure.

If the Republicans are disappointed by what seems to have been only a modest bounce in the polls for Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan after their convention last week, they leapt with glee yesterday through the window left wide open for them by Messrs Plouffe, Axelrod and O'Malley. Best of all, it allowed them to refocus attention on the economy and rehearse their claim that Mr Obama has failed to haul it out of the doldrums.

Among the first to pounce was Mr Romney, who issued a statement marking the Labour Day bank holiday with an undisguised reference to the theme. The holiday, he said, is "a chance to celebrate the strong American work ethic", adding: "For far too many Americans, today is another day of worrying when their next paycheque will come."

While Mr Romney himself is expected to keep a fairly low profile as the Democrats rally this week, his election team will do all it can to play interference by plugging away on the "are-you-better-off" question. That started yesterday as Mr Ryan dipped into North Carolina with a campaign event in Greenville.

Democrat aides were sent back to the TV studios yesterday to correct the mistakes of 24 hours earlier. "Are we better off today than we were four years ago when President Obama was elected?" Stephanie Cutter, a spokeswoman, asked. "Absolutely. Let me just walk you through what life was like four years ago."

She pointed to the car-industry rescue and contrasted the 3.5 million jobs lost in the six months before Mr Obama was elected with the 4.5 million he has created since coming to office.

"We are clearly better off as a country because we're now creating jobs rather than losing them," Mr O'Malley said on CNN yesterday.

Politesse had clearly abandoned the Republican campaign. Determined to crash the party, they were busy setting up shop yesterday in the Nascar Hall of Fame next to the Democratic Convention venue, the Time Warner Arena, in hopes of attracting journalists with offerings of aggressive counterspin. "We're going to be ready to respond to everything that the Democrats say, and I think that the real issue this week, and what you're seeing happening yesterday on the Sunday-morning talk shows… are you better off today than you were three or four years ago?" Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus said.

"Issues come and go and they will, but at the end of the day this is going to be about facts."

John Burton, compared the Republicans and their alleged tendency to speak mistruths to Joseph Goebbels and the Nazis.

"They lie and they don't care if people think they lie… Joseph Goebbels – it's the big lie, you keep repeating it," he said at a breakfast for California delegates to the convention. He made particular reference to Mr Ryan, who uttered "a bold-faced lie and he doesn't care that it was a lie. That was Goebbels, the big lie", Mr Burton said.

The Democrats chose North Carolina for the convention to bolster Mr Obama's hopes of taking it on 6 November as he did, by a slim margin, in 2008.

But a Charlotte Observer poll released yesterday saw him trailing Mr Romney in the state by four points.

News
people
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence