US President Barack Obama is to look US voters in the eye this week and say he deserves four more years in power, despite national economic despondency and disappointed hopes stretching back to 2008.
With his job in peril, Obama is to use the Democratic National Convention to counter the cutting Republican charge that though his election was historic and rightly celebrated, his presidency is a bust.
The first African American president will insist that votes of starstruck supporters four years ago were not a waste, despite what Republican US presidential candidate Mitt Romney says.
“Those who oppose change have always bet on your cynicism,” Obama told a young crowd in swing state Virginia last week in a possible preview of his convention tone. “They always bet on a lack of hope — and throughout American history, they have lost that bet.”
However, Obama has said he believes that despite his reputation as a soaring speechmaker, he has not adequately communicated to voters the stakes and achievements of a term haunted by economic crisis.
Republicans simply ask: what achievements?
So Obama’s major convention address in Charlotte, North Carolina on Thursday represents a priceless chance to reset the political narrative two months before Americans vote in a race currently too close to call.
Job No. 1: Rebut the anti-Obama rhetoric pumped out by Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan last week in Florida.
“The president does have some work to do in Charlotte after the Republican convention,” said Michael Kramer, a professor specializing in presidential communications at St Mary’s College, Indiana. “He needs to counteract the message that Romney and Ryan impressed on voters that he has done nothing, that his time is up and that he has disappointed Americans.”
Romney’s most effective charge was that Obama, despite vowing to reverse the rise of the oceans and heal the planet, simply did not deliver what US citizens care most about: economic prosperity.
“You know there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him,” Romney said, in the sorrowful manner of a father figure admonishing a younger man.
Ryan surely stung Obama when he tweaked the president’s self-created image as the personification of hope and change.
“College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters,” Ryan said.
Leila Brammer, professor of communications and rhetoric at Gustavus Adolphus College, Minnesota, said the Republican critique resonated with swing voters and Obama needed to do more than defend his administration and talk economics.
“He really has to find a way to strike an emotional chord,” she said, of a president who once promised to unite a nation that seems ever more divided four years after he won power.
“People are disappointed in him. They are not only focused on the economy. They are also saying: ‘We had faith in this guy, it was almost a religious faith, and he has let us down,’” she said.
Obama is to try to revive the old magic on Thursday, as he did in 2008, by leaving the confines of a convention hall for a huge 70,000-capacity outdoor football stadium.
He is set to try and defend his crusade for change, highlighting his historic healthcare reform and his orders to end the ban on gays serving openly in the military, to halt the Iraq war, to decimate al-Qaeda and kill then-al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.