Obama: Give me time and I'll fix America

Riding high on the Clinton effect, President warns there'll  be more pain to come as he pleads for four more years

Charlotte

Barack Obama vowed last night to set down a series of signature goals in a second term as President to put America back on a course towards prosperity and confidence again. But meeting them, he said in his speech on the last raucous night of the Democratic convention here, would take time and grit.

"I won't pretend the path I'm offering is quick or easy," he said. "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. 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."

In an address that forsook some of the hope-and-change flights of four years ago in favour of home truths, Mr Obama said, according to early excerpts released by his campaign, that if the country rallied around his goals in areas such as energy, education, national security and the deficit, the ship would finally be righted.

It was a message threaded through a theme of choice, notably the one that will face voters when they go to the polls on 6 November, saying it would not be just between him and Mitt Romney but between starkly different futures. "When all is said and done – 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."

In a speech of under an hour, Mr Obama attempted to seize the hardship now afflicting American and turn it into a rallying cry for the country to unite behind him.

"Know this, America: our problems can be solved. Our challenges can be met. The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place. And I'm asking you to choose that future. I'm asking you to rally around a set of goals for your country – goals in manufacturing, energy, education, national security, and the deficit; a real, achievable plan that will lead to new jobs, more opportunity, and rebuild this economy on a stronger foundation. That's what we can do in the next four years, and that's why I'm running for a second term as President of the United States."

Among the roster of warm-up speakers, Senator John Kerry, a former candidate, rebuked Republicans for trying to pick apart Mr Obama's record on foreign policy, noting he had hardly inherited a settled world from George W Bush. "Our military was stretched to the breaking point. Iran was marching unchecked towards a nuclear weapon. And Osama bin Laden was still plotting," he said. "It took President Obama to restore our moral authority and ban torture. This President understands that our values don't limit our power – they magnify it. He understands that global leadership is a strategic imperative for America, not a favour we do for other countries."

Mr Romney indicated earlier he would not be watching Mr Obama speak. "If it is another series of new promises that he is not going to keep I have no interest in seeing him, because I saw the promises last time," Mr Romney said. "Those are promises he did not keep and the American people deserve to know why he did not keep his promises."

With 60 days left of the campaign, Mr Obama took to the stage dragging several unwelcome weights, starting with where he was – in the indoor Time Warner Arena and not the nearby stadium that holds 74,000 people, a change forced on the organisers by the threat of storms. He spoke fully aware, moreover, that due this morning are new unemployment statistics that will highlight the shortfalls of his economic record.

And while Mr Obama needed only to turn up to set the delegates jumping out of their seats, he did not come to Charlotte with the clean slate he had at the Denver convention four years ago when he could lead the chorus of "Yes we can" because no one then knew that on several accounts the reality would be, "No we can't".

Even before last night's high-stakes speeches, top aides embarked on the ritual of management expectations, warning that any bounce from this convention might be slight. "We've always believed that there's very little elasticity in the election," David Plouffe, a top aide, said. "You're not going to see big bounces in this election. For the next 61 days, it's going to remain tight as a tick."

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