Barack Obama urged wavering supporters not to give up on their dreams of change – or on him – as he accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for president in what promises to be a tough race against Republican Mitt Romney.
Mr Obama used his nationally televised speech closing the three-day Democratic National Convention to try to revive the excitement that powered his first run for the presidency.
With just two months before election day, Mr Obama needs to win over undecided voters, especially those who had been swayed by his inspiring message of hope and change in 2008, but now feel disillusioned after years of economic weakness and persistent political bickering.
“The election four years ago wasn’t about me. It was about you,” he said. “My fellow citizens – you were the change.”
He said the American people were the ones responsible for accomplishments on his watch, such as overhauling health care, changing immigration policies and ending the ban in gays in the military.
If they turned away now, he warned, “you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn’t possible. “Change,” he said, “will not happen”.
Mr Obama built on the message Democrats delivered throughout the convention: that America is on the road to recovery while Mr Romney would revive failed policies, cutting taxes for the rich and slashing programmes that give regular Americans a chance for a more prosperous future.
Republicans, who nominated Mr Romney last week, argue that America’s high 8.3 per cent unemployment rate is proof that Mr Obama’s policies have failed and that the president’s spendthrift, big-government policies have hurt business and caused the federal deficit to soar.
The two candidates are locked in a tight race. Polls show that Mr Romney, a wealthy businessman and former governor of Massachusetts, is seen as the better candidate for improving the economy, while Mr Obama is viewed as more likeable and having a better understanding of everyday Americans. In his convention speech, Mr Obama highlighted improvement in the economy without suggesting that things are fine as they are.
Democrats argue that the economy would be worse if it hadn’t been for Obama-led programmes to rescue the car industry and stimulate the economy. Still, it is difficult to win over voters by arguing that things could have been worse.
Mr Obama set out a goal of creating one million new manufacturing jobs by the end of 2016 and push for more aggressive steps to reduce American dependence on foreign oil.
Though the economy has dominated the convention, Democrats have also discussed national security issues, where Mr Obama does well in polls. They highlighted his carrying out his promise to pull US combat forces from Iraq and, especially, his order that led to the killing of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
Mocking a Republican slogan asking Americans if they are better off under Mr Obama, John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, told delegates: “Ask Osama bin Laden if he’s better off now than he was four years ago.”
Mr Obama also noted that both Mr Romney and his vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan have little foreign policy experience.
“They want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly,” he said. Mr Romney was “stuck in a Cold War time warp”.