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America's 'crossroad'

Christina Bergmann, Charlotte, North Carolina /gbSeptember 7, 2012

President Barack Obama used his speech to warn America about the consequences of a shift to the right on social and economic issues should the Republicans win the presidential election in November.

Image: Reuters

"Four more years," chanted the delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte's Time Warner Cable Arena on Thursday evening. Sharon Steckman from Mason City, Iowa, thought Obama's speech was "fantastic."

"I love the way he talked about his vision and how we're gonna get there. We just need to all work together," she told DW.

Sandy Opstvedt, also from Iowa, a state which played a significant role in Obama's resounding victory in 2008, said the speech was "very inspirational and really nailed the point down that hope is alive to face the world's challenges."

Obama described the upcoming election as a "crossroads," one that's not about two candidates or two parties, but about "two different paths for America, two fundamentally different visions for the future."

'Hope and Change' require more time

For there are important decisions to be made in Washington in the next years, Obama claimed.

"I'm asking you to rally around a set of goals for your country - goals in manufacturing, energy, education, national security, and the deficit; real, achievable plans that will lead to new jobs, more opportunity, and rebuild this economy on a stronger foundation."

Obama explained that his plan was feasible and that he would create more jobs and provide a more stable basis for the US economy. The "set of goals" to which he referred includes an ambitious drive to create one million new jobs in the manufacturing industry, to double exports by 2014 and halve oil imports by 2020.

Details on how he plans to achieve those goals, however, were left out of his speech. He called on his supporters to have patience, for the changes he has promised could not be made overnight. Instead of focusing, as was expected, on unemployment or the budget deficit, Obama emphasized his successes regarding the equal treatment of women and homosexuals. He also spoke of the importance of education and the protection of the environment.

Delegates cheer as U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the final session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina September 6, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
Obama issued a rallying cry to his supporters, warning of stark choices.Image: Reuters

Social topics take center stage

Twenty-year-old Leslie Tisdale, who attends the University of Texas at Austin, told DW that social issues could be the key to Obama's success in November.

"He's a candidate for the students; he's a candidate for the young people, one who understands the importance of education, of women's rights, of healthcare for us and that we'll inherit what he leaves behind."

Terry Brady, who comes from the important swing state Florida, is convinced that Obama will ultimately win a majority there. "It's about immigration, public education, women's rights and of course healthcare because of our growing senior population (...)" Brady added that Floridians were better off now, four years after Obama began his first term, mainly because of the health-care reform that Obama fought to pass through.

Dorrick Nurse, from Marion County in Florida, referred to comments made by former President Bill Clinton in his praise of Obama. "Clinton says no other president has inherited the problems that Obama has inherited, and no other president would have been able to fix [these] within four years."

Clinton gave an emotionally charged speech the night before that was met with thunderous applause. And while the highly popular former president was not in a position to lend his full support 2008 (his wife, Hillary, was Obama's main challenger in the Democratic race), Clinton is now unequivocally on the side of Obama. That support could be a boost for Obama who remains neck-and-neck with his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, and faces lower approval ratings among young people and the Latino population than four years ago.

Thousands of tickets wasted

Tens of thousands of Obama supporters were left disappointed on Thursday, not because of anything their candidate said in his speech, but because they couldn't attend. The speech had been planned for the Bank of America Stadium (capacity 65,000), but forecasts of inclement weather led Convention organizers to opt for the TWC Arena, which holds around 20,000.

Obama apologized personally in a telephone conference to his supporters, many of whom had waited hours to get tickets for the speech, and he also praised the volunteer work they had done during the campaign. But he was unequivocal about the fact that the work wasn't done yet.

"This is still gonna be a really close election, and the other side is preparing to unleash just a barrage of negative ads. The good thing is I've got you […] I need you to prove the cynics wrong one more time. Nothing's more powerful than voices calling for change."

Campaign all the way

The change of venues was a tough shot for Obama's campaign team to take, as the Convention had been planned as an instrument to recruit new supporters. But the delegates that were able to find a seat in the smaller arena were even more motivated to keep going with their work, like 24-year-old Matthew Kochever who blames Obama's difficulties over the past four years on the Republicans and Congress.

"I was a political science and history major in college; I studied Congress and I've never seen a more inactive Congress since I've been alive."

Obama is well aware that he'll have to get his votes with more than just progressive social politics. When Obama noticed that there was no mention of God in the party program, nor any mention of Jerusalem being the capital of Israel, he quickly had the document changed and these crucial conservative values added and approved by the delegates.

At this point, the incumbent can't afford to rub any groups of voters the wrong way; the US is deep in campaign mode. Even before Obama had finished his speech on Thursday, Romney's team had already published a press release in which he accused the president of breaking his promise to the American people. Romney called for a "change" of his own, one in favor of the Republican Party.