U.S. President Barack Obama made a pitch to voters Thursday night by issuing a stark warning that his political opponents hold a "fundamentally different vision of the future," during a speech that offered an outline of the issues he will focus on over the course of the campaign.
But with 60 days to go before the election it remains to be seen whether the speech, delivered on the final night of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., was enough to garner a bump in his popularity, fire up his base or convince undecided voters to back him for another term.
It will be a challenging path ahead for the president. The economy remains fragile, recovery is slow and unemployment continues to hover above eight percent.
The Obama team has also spent the previous few months pouring campaign money into attack ads against Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Despite these efforts, polling numbers suggest a tight race and Romney will be unleashing his own massive war chest against the president.
'When you pick up that ballot to vote, you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation.' —President Barack Obama
Obama is hoping that by painting the Republican ticket as extreme and inexperienced, voters will rally to support him.
Before a packed crowd inside the 18,000-seat Time Warner Cable Arena on Thursday night, Obama sought to draw a sharp contrast between the two parties ahead of the November election.
"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," Obama said.
"On every issue, the choice you face won’t be just between two candidates or two parties. It will be a choice between two different paths for America, a choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future."
Obama said the parties also have a fundamental disagreement about the role of government.
"We don’t think government can solve all our problems," he said. "But we don’t think that government is the source of all our problems any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles."
Brief mention of Obamacare
On some issues, Obama was rather silent. The president has been blasted by Republicans over his "you didn’t build that" comment while delivering a a speech about businesses last month. The Republicans pounced on the comments, modified the words and made "we did build that" the mantra for the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., last week.
Although Obama administration officials have said the president was taken out of context, he didn’t attempt to clarify or defend his statement during Thursday's speech. Nor did he have that much to say on small business in general, except to say he has cut taxes on small business owners.
Obama made only a brief mention about his signature and historic landmark health-care legislation — often referred to as Obamacare — which has proven unpopular with many Americans.
Instead, Obama focused on investments in clean energy and education, his plan to make wealthy Americans pay higher income taxes, his record on foreign policy and his pledge to reform and strengthen Medicare, the program that provides health care to seniors.
By the end of the speech and as party delegates exited the arena, there was a sense that the president appeared more subdued than he has in the past. And that while the speech was good, it did not reach the rhetorical heights of other addresses.
Inside the arena, which filled up hours before Obama was scheduled to appear, the crowd's reaction did not seem to reach the enthusiastic heights expected after days of build up.
'Everybody knows who the president is'
Although the delegates roared in support during a number of passages, the speech didn’t seem to draw the same energy as other speakers at the convention.
However, Obama was faced with the challenge of following former president Bill Clinton, who rallied the crowd Wednesday night with a long-winded yet spirited and powerful defence of the president.
It’s also possible the crowd had expended too much energy after the frenzied reaction to the fire-and-brimstone speech of former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, whose passionate praise of Obama’s auto bailout rocked the arena.
And there was no chance Obama could surpass the emotional highlight of the convention on Thursday night, when former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the victim of a shooting last year, came out to deliver the Pledge of Allegiance.
Now that the convention is over, Obama has to continue focusing on the contrast between the two parties, according to Joe Trippi, who served as campaign manager for former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean.
"People have made up their minds about a sitting president. Everybody knows who the president is, they’ve made a judgment," he told CBC News. "And most of the polling says they don’t know Mitt Romney, don’t know who he really is and they want to learn more about him," he said.
"While they’re doing that, you’ve got to make it very clear what the difference between you and Romney is. Make people understand that difference."