A divided US awaits Obama nomination
By Julie Pace & Steven R. Hurst | AP - CHARLOTTE (North Carolina)
04th September 2012 06:16 PM
Democrats bang the opening gavel Tuesday on their national convention to re-nominate Barack Obama for the presidency, where they will sell him as the wise and humane alternative to Republican challenger Mitt Romney, a pitch they will repeat endlessly to an American electorate that is more politically divided than ever.
As they watch the political stagecraft, there may be only one thing all Americans can agree on: Deep concern over the halting economic recovery from the Great Recession and meltdown of the U.S. financial sector that began shortly before Obama took office.
First lady Michelle Obama's speech Tuesday night was set to be an early highlight of a three-day schedule that has drawn thousands of delegates to North Carolina. Popular former President Bill Clinton, whose 1990s presidency is trumpeted by Democrats as the last great period of economic growth, speaks Wednesday.
Through the course of the Democratic gathering, Obama and his party will be fighting Romney's argument that the president has failed and will only lead the U.S. deeper into debt and economic despair. That was the Republican theme at their national convention last week in Tampa, Florida.
For his part, Obama set the tone for the Democratic gathering, declaring Monday that Romney's governing prescriptions are something out of the past.
"Despite all the challenges that we face in this new century, we saw three straight days of an agenda out of the last century. It was a rerun. You might as well have watched it on black-and-white TV," Obama told an audience of auto workers in Toledo, Ohio. He is hailed by auto unions for saving General Motors and Chrysler Corp. Romney opposed the move, famously writing an editorial headlined "Let Detroit go bankrupt."
The president then made a convention-eve visit to the Hurricane Isaac-flooded coast of Louisiana, where he vowed that government officials would do all possible to aid the thousands who were forced out of their homes by flooding and try to reduce the impact of future storms "to make sure it doesn't happen again."
At times like these, "nobody's a Democrat or a Republican, we're all just Americans looking out for one another," said the president, after inspecting some of the storm damage and hugging its victims.
Romney paid a similar visit last Friday but made no reference at the time to federal aid.
Obama argues that Romney brings nothing more to his quest for the White House than reprising the failed plans and policies of former Republican President George W. Bush, under whose watch the Great Recession began.
Most Americans still hold Bush responsible for the start of the economic problems afflicting the U.S., but they are split on which candidate is best equipped to restore health to the economy.
Romney contends the president is a nice guy who has failed to make things better. The Republican candidate drew a line under that message in a statement Monday, the U.S. Labor Day holiday that celebrates workers and marks the unofficial end of the summer holiday season.
"For far too many Americans, today is another day of worrying when their next paycheck will come," he said.
His convention behind him, Romney relaxed at his lakeside home in New Hampshire with his family. He has no campaign events scheduled this week, but plans to prepare for next month's three debates with Obama.
Romney will be talking up his business expertise as co-founder of Bain Capital, a private equity firm through which he amassed a quarter-million dollar fortune. Polls show most Americans see Romney as the better candidate to handle the U.S. economy, while Obama is seen as by far the most likable and better able to understand the problems of ordinary Americans. Overall the two candidates are in one of the closest presidential contests in recent U.S. history.
Their visions of America's future differ widely.
Obama is pressing hard on his contention that there are and will be vast areas where the government can help fix the economy and put a safety net under hard hit Americans. He's finally defending the landmark health care overhaul he oversaw in 2010. It was based on a plan instituted by Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts, though the Republican candidate now promises to repeal Obama's vision for the nation.
Obama is calling for higher taxes on Americans making more than $250,000 a year. Romney wants to keep all Bush-era tax cuts in place, with even steeper cuts for high-income earners. Obama argues his plan will help bring down the U.S. debt. Romney says his ideas will do that even better by causing businesses to make more money and pay even more in taxes even though the rate is lowered.
Obama is pressing to keep alive the Medicare program, the much-loved government health insurance program for Americans over age 65. Romney — adopting the budget proposals of his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan — favors converting the program to a system where retirees receive a government voucher that they can use in buying insurance on the private market. Obama contends that effectively will end Medicare.
On foreign policy, Romney notably did not once mention the ongoing war in Afghanistan in his acceptance speech last Thursday. Obama, polls show, is seen as far more capable of handling U.S. foreign policy, and he will no doubt highlight that when he speaks Thursday night.
He will recall that he ended the war in Iraq at the end of last year, as promised, and will put an end to the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014.
And he holds a powerful trump card: His decision to order the daring Navy SEAL raid that killed terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden at his hideout in Pakistan.
Vice President Joe Biden, speaking to workers in Detroit on Monday, summed it all up this way: "Osama bin Laden is dead, General Motors is alive."
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