US first lady Michelle Obama acknowledged on Tuesday that the change her husband, US President Barack Obama, championed in his White House campaign four years ago has proven difficult, but urged voters to give him four more years to fix the struggling US economy.
“He reminds me that we are playing a long game here, and that change is hard, and change is slow, and it never happens all at once,” she told the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. “But eventually we get there. We always do.”
The popular first lady was the highest-profile advocate for her husband in the first of three days of speeches that will conclude with Obama’s address today to accept the Democratic presidential nomination to face Republican US presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on Nov. 6.
In a race that is too close to call nine weeks before Americans vote, Obama is vulnerable to the challenge from Romney due to a sluggish economy and 8.3 percent unemployment.
Obama’s economic argument got a little tougher on Tuesday. New surveys showed US manufacturing shrank at its sharpest clip in more than three years last month, while exports and hiring in the sector also slumped. The president is trying to use his convention to recapture the magic that carried him to victory in 2008, but he admitted to a Colorado TV reporter that he would give himself a grade of “incomplete” for his first term. The workmanlike first day of the convention showcased different parts of the party’s base of support: women, Hispanics and African-Americans.
They all took aim at Romney, and there were even what appeared to be some subtle digs from Michelle Obama herself at the wealthy Republican. She spoke a week after Romney’s wife, Ann, hurled some zingers at Obama in promoting her husband at the Republican convention in Tampa.
“For Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives,” Michelle Obama said, perhaps a reference to multimillionaire Romney’s past as a private equity executive.
The message was not lost on Steve Holecko, 55, a Democratic delegate from Ohio.
“It was outstanding. She made a very clear distinction between her values and Mrs Romney’s values. She clearly laid out the president’s vision of middle class-out growth,” he said.
A host of speakers at the gathering in Charlotte attacked Romney over his business record, refusal to release more tax returns and for spearheading a Republican “war on women.”
The Democrats even choreographed a swipe at the former Massachusetts governor from beyond the grave, by playing a video of late US senator Ted Kennedy getting the better of Romney during a debate in the 1994 election campaign for Kennedy’s Senate seat. One of the most exuberant attackers was US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who recently made a controversial claim that Romney had paid no income taxes for 10 years, which was denied by Romney.
Reid took up the tax argument again.
“Mitt Romney says we should take his word that he paid his fair share? His word? Trust comes from transparency, and Mitt Romney comes up short on both,” Reid said.
It was a night for women as the Democrats pressed their advantage with female voters, a gender gap that is a sore point for Republicans, particularly after remarks by conservative Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin about “legitimate rape.”