— President Obama wrapped up his pre-Democratic convention tour of swing states Tuesday with a large rally in this military town in southeast Virginia, pledging to lay out a “better path forward” during his nominating speech Thursday night.

Obama spoke to a crowd of 11,600 supporters in a courtyard at Norfolk State University, touching on familiar themes by framing the election as a choice between himself and the starkly different vision of Republican rival Mitt Romney.

“Now, the other side may not be eager to talk about their ideas, but on Thursday night I look forward to sharing mine with you,” Obama said. “I will offer what I consider a better path forward, a path to create good jobs and strengthen the middle-class and grow our economy. The good news, Virginia, is that in just two months you get to choose which path we take.”

The rally was Obama’s fifth campaign event in the past four days, including appearances in Iowa, Colorado and Ohio over the holiday weekend. On Wednesday, the president will fly to Charlotte by mid-afternoon to conduct the customary walk-through at the Bank of America Stadium, where he will deliver his acceptance speech in prime time this week.

Before that, the president will spend Tuesday night at the White House, where he will watch wife Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention. Traveling with Obama aboard Air Force One to Virginia, campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the first lady “knows the president best. She’ll speak about the values and experiences that drive him. She’ll give a personal, passionate speech.”

The president told the Norfolk State crowd that he hopes his daughters, Malia and Sasha, don’t see him tear up during his wife’s remarks. “When Michelle talks, I get a little misty,” he joked. Campaign aides said they would release a photo of Obama watching the first lady’s address.

Obama heads to Charlotte with pressure mounting to blunt Republican attacks on his economic record. On Friday, when Obama begins a post-convention swing through New Hampshire, Iowa and Florida, the Labor Department will release the August employment report. Job growth has been tepid over the past several months, and unemployment stands at 8.3 percent.

Psaki said country has had 29 straight months of private-sector job growth, but “we know more needs to be done. But we feel good about the direction the country is moving in. Regardless of what the numbers are on Friday, we know the American people are still facing a choice [of whom] they would rather have standing up for them in the White House.”

Romney has repeatedly hit Obama on the economy, noting that 23 million of people are underemployed or out of work. Obama gave himself an “incomplete” on the economy when asked to grade himself in an interview with a Colorado Springs television station.

Psaki hit back at the GOP on Tuesday: “What an ‘incomplete’ means is that there’s more work he wants to do,” she said. “The alternative is to go back to the old playbook of failing policies and failing grades.”

Later in the day, the Romney campaign used its criticism to appeal to Virginians.

“Whether it’s the president’s devastating defense cuts, opposition to bipartisan proposals for offshore drilling in the Commonwealth, his war on coal or job-destroying policies, President Obama has found himself on the wrong side of the issues Virginians care about the most,” Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said. “And today, President Obama once again showed why he gave himself an ‘incomplete’ grade on fixing the economy. He offered no new solutions to our economic problems and doubled down on the same policies that have given our country high unemployment, falling incomes, soaring gas prices and unsustainable debt.”

In Norfolk, Obama accused Republicans of opposing change because they “benefit from the status quo.”

“They bet on complacency and cynicism of the American people, but throughout American history they always lose that bet,” Obama said. “I think they’ll lose that bet this time, too, but it depends on your vote. . . . If you’re willing to stand with me and fight with me . . . we can finish what we started.”