Washington: Four years after his historic win on a slogan of hope and change, President Barack Obama has sought a fresh mandate with a passionate defence of his record to kickstart a still struggling economy.
“As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us,” said the first African American president in a forceful speech reminding one of John F. Kennedy’s words on the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, Thursday night.
“It’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government,” he said to a raucously cheering crowd waving signs with his campaign slogan “Forward”.
“That’s what we believe,” said Obama as he framed the November election as a clear choice “between two different paths for America”, in his 38-minute speech accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for a second White House run.
“On every issue, the choice you face won’t be just between two candidates or two parties,” said Obama dressed in a dark blue suit with a striped blue tie, the Democratic colour, amid chants of “USA, USA” and “We love you”.
“It will be a choice between two different paths for America. A choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future,” he said.
Slowly but surely warming up to his theme Obama declared while “hope has been tested- by the cost of war; by one of the worst economic crises in history; and by political gridlock” more time was needed to fix the nation’s problems.
But the reaction from his Republican opponents was swift with his challenger Mitt Romney’s campaign assailing Obama as having failed to create enough jobs, cut the deficit in half or increase incomes.
“This is a time not for him to start restating new promises, but to report on the promises he made,” Romney said in the taped statement released even before the speech was delivered. “I think he wants a promises reset. We want a report on the promises he made.”
Media pundits generally agreed it was a solid speech calling it typical of Obama’s strong oratorial skills. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews said he “did it again” and delivered “a home run speech”, while Al Sharpton called the address as “epic”.
But on CNN former President George Bush’s press secretary Ari Fleischer dubbed it the “same old… same speech” with “many of the promises” from four years ago.
Back at the convention arena, as Obama finished with confetti guns shooting into the air and the video screens displaying images of fireworks, Democrats already energised by former president Bill Clinton’s speech Wednesday evening appeared fired up to face what appears to be a close race with renewed confidence.
But whether that would translate into votes come November is yet to be seen.