Almost everything about Barack Obama’s Democratic National Convention speech indicated this one would be different from 2008. The venue: downsized. The expectations: downsized. The speech: downsized. This wasn’t the same “hope” and “change” rhetoric that dominated his last convention speech, even if he did invoke the words. Overall, it lacked the pomp, the circumstance and the pizzazz (and, ahem, the fireworks) of four years ago, something the president was quick to acknowledge when he accepted his party’s nomination for a second presidential term.

“I recognize that times have changed since I first spoke to this convention. “The times have changed — and so have I,” Obama said. “I’m no longer just a candidate. I’m the president.”

Nevertheless, President Obama—perhaps overshadowed by the extraordinary speeches of Bill Clinton on Wednesday night and his wife, first lady Michelle Obama—still delivered a strong address as he spelled out his vision of the next four years of an Obama presidency.


More frank than inspiring, the president made the case for his reelection by ticking through his first-term accomplishments and the differences between the Democratic and Republican tickets: “A choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future.”

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The Daily Beast:

It was a strong, sophisticated and policy-laden speech by an embattled president, not a passionate newcomer making blue-sky promises.

In fact, Obama engaged in a deliberate lowering of expectations, a sharp contrast to the “yes we can” frenzy of 2008.

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Indeed a lot has changed in the four years since Obama delivered a stunning rhetorical performance that helped catapult his presidential candidacy past his Republican challenger, John McCain, and, ultimately, into the White House.

The Huffington Post:

By the admission of the president’s fans and critics, it has been a long four years since then-Sen. Obama addressed the convention crowd gathered at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colo. And it has left the campaign with a difficult juggling act: how to tout an America that is progressing without offending those who feel left behind. The speakers leading up to the president attempted to help him thread that needle, repeatedly invoking the achievements that they didn’t want undone while pledging to fulfill the “promise of America” that Obama laid out four years ago.

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What Obama’s DNC speech lacked in style, however it made up for with substance and policy—something polls suggested that the American people actually wanted anyway. But perhaps even more important, it also made the case that the country is better off today than it was four years when George W. Bush was president.

As Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry put it in one of the best lines of the evening, “Ask Osama bin Laden if he is better off now than he was four years ago.”

The president also used the speech to—no surprise here—address his critics while also hitting back at GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan.

The Washington Post:

He spoke to criticism that his policies have led to a bigger role for government in the economy and people’s lives: “We don’t think government can solve all our problems. But we don’t think that government is the source of all our problems — any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles.”

Obama belittled the economic proposals of Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan. He said Romney’s budget math doesn’t add up, and he vowed never to “turn Medicare into a voucher.” His second-term policies, he said, could cut $4 trillion out of the deficit over a decade, create a million manufacturing jobs by 2016, cut net oil imports in half by the end of the decade and reduce the growth of college tuition by 50 percent over the next 10 years.

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But far from painting a rosy picture, Obama acknowledged the tough times that have befallen the country and acknowledged that the path ahead would not be free from difficulties.

“I never said this journey would be easy, and I won’t promise that now,” he said at the conclusion of his speech. “Yes, our path is harder — but it leads to a better place. Yes, our road is longer — but we travel it together. We don’t turn back.”

Indeed, with the conventions behind us, it’s time to move forward on the campaign trail and on to the next big show: the presidential debates.

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