In speech, Obama asks voters to make 'harder' choice

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Barack Obama accepted his party's nomination for a second term Thursday telling voters that November's election presents the country with "the clearest choice of any time in a generation."

Making his case for another four years, Obama acknowledged the country still has a long way to go in recovery and asked for more time to solve the nation’s fiscal problems. Turning to the Republican ticket, the president argued, would halt economic progress in its tracks.      

"I won't pretend the path I'm offering is quick or easy. I never have," Obama said. "You didn't elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is—it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades."

The path forward Democrats offer "may be harder," said Obama "but it leads to a better place." Obama called for "common effort, shared responsibility and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one."

Obama's acceptance speech followed a Wednesday night address from former President Bill Clinton, who energized the convention hall with a stirring defense of Obama's first term and the declaration that the country is "of course" better off than it was four years ago.

Paul Orzulak, a former Clinton speechwriter, called Obama’s address “the first State of the Union ever delivered in September,” but thinks the speech did what it needed to do, reaffirming “that this election isn’t a referendum on the past four years, as the Republicans would prefer, but rather a profound choice about the next four years and the direction America will take.”  

Others picked up on the speech’s State of the Union feel—mostly in criticism of the address on social media.

“And the state of the union is … mundane,” former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson tweeted during the president’s speech.      

“Purely from a speechwriting perspective, this was not the most rhetorically soaring speech President Obama has delivered, but it was extremely effective,” says David Meadvin, a veteran Democratic strategist and former chief speechwriter for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.).

Obama didn't turn away from his 2008 language of hope and change, Meadvin says, “but rather embraced and updated these themes for a far different political climate than he faced four years ago.”

Responding to the president’s speech, Romney Campaign Manager Matt Rhoades painted it as nothing more than a promise to extend “the same policies that haven’t worked for the past four years.”

“Americans will hold President Obama accountable for his record—they know they’re not better off and that it’s time to change direction,” Rhoades said in a statement.

One of the president’s primary tasks Thursday, wrote political speech coach Gary Genard, was to tap into the convention magic he was able to generate in 2004 when he burst onto the national political scene with a speech that electrified delegates.  

Genard thinks Obama’s speech—like Mitt Romney’s last week in Tampa—accomplished what it needed to for the most part, but fell short of the lofty standard he set eight years ago in Boston.

“Obama definitely was better than he's been lately, and he was clearly fired up by the convention dynamic,” says Genard. “We've heard him so much by now that we needed to hear something—and someone— different. Mostly, we didn't.”

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