Words can’t end the war in Afghanistan, fix a still-staggering economy or close a huge budget deficit, and Obama’s mission as he took the stage at the Time Warner Cable Arena was at its heart to provide an explanation for why a mixed first-term record argues for a second.
Striking the right balance on Thursday required all of Obama’s rhetorical dexterity as he delivered his second nomination acceptance speech — never an easy one for a president with a record to defend and a second term uncertain to happen.
His goal was to outline what that second term would look like and why more time would mean better results, while also reigniting the enthusiasm of the supporters who so animated his campaign four years ago.
As the Democratic National Convention entered its last hour, Obama strolled onto the royal-blue stage to a soundtrack of U2, smiling, taking in what will be his last national convention as a nominee.
“I know that campaigns can seem small and even silly,” he began. “Trivial things become big distractions. Serious issues become sound bites. And the truth gets buried under an avalanche of money and advertising.”
But he went on to raise the stakes, excite his base, even frighten it to a degree by defining, in clear words, what the Nov. 6 election is about.
The warning suggested the outlines of a second term, if not in specific policy proposals, in contrast to Republican proposals to repeal the nations’s new health-care law and cut taxes for the highest-income Americans.
“When you pick up that ballot to vote, you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation,” Obama said. “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.”
Already highly anticipated, Obama’s speech came with an extra level of expectation at the end of what had been a rousing week for Democrats.
On the opening night of the convention Tuesday, first lady Michelle Obama was personal and emotional behind the lectern, reminding the delegates why they fell for her husband in the first place, just as she had years before. Former president Bill Clinton followed on Wednesday with a tour-de-force defense of Obama’s record and a comprehensive and cutting critique of his opponent.
By the time Obama appeared Thursday night, one of the most gifted orators of his generation faced the unlikely pressure of possibly delivering the third-best speech of the week. With his energy, clarity and at times partisan aggression, however, it was unlikely that most in the crowd would award him the bronze.