CHARLOTTE, N.C. — To a nation short on job security, President Barack Obama has his night to protect his own.
Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday will be about promise — the kind he'll say he has kept, and the kind of feeling he wants to stir once more. He will take people back to the start of his presidency to make a case why their lives are better, but his bigger imperative is to sell himself as better for middle-class America than Republican Mitt Romney.
Gone is the newness of the last time he stood up to accept the nomination of his party. Obama, the graying incumbent, will not try to recreate it.
Instead, he will whittle the election down to a choice, spelling out his vision of how to create economic opportunity for all, and warning that Romney would restore trickle-down ideas that Obama says were quietly gutting the economy for years before crashing it completely.
That's the policy part. Obama will also try to summon inspiration again that America is right on the cusp of what it could be.
Campaigns can thrive or die on voter passions, and Romney had his shot at this first. At his own convention last week, he told a TV audience of millions that it was a telling sign if many people's best feelings about Obama peaked the moment they voted for him.
Gone, too, is the setting Obama wanted for the biggest address of his re-election bid.
Democrats opted for their convention's rented basketball arena instead of a much larger, open-air football stadium for Obama, wary of the safety and political risks if rain came pouring down.
"We can't let a little thunder and lightning get us down. We're going to have to roll with it," Obama said in a phone call to supporters who lost their chance to attend because of the site switch.
Yet tighter, packed quarters of energized supporters could present just the optics Obama wants on TV. He must give his backers and undecided voters a reason to mobilize behind him.
It worked on Wednesday night for former President Bill Clinton, and for first lady Michelle Obama the night before that.
Both of them signaled precisely where Obama will be headed in his own speech.
In a nation in which more than 23 million people are unemployed or underemployed, Obama will focus instead on the millions who have found work, and how many more can, too. He will talk of education and energy and innovation and job training.
He will ask for more time.
As Clinton put it: "No president — not me, not any of my predecessors — no one could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years. But he has laid the foundations for a new, modern, successful economy of shared prosperity. And if you will renew the president's contract, you will feel it."
Obama's speech will cover the dominant themes of his campaign. Those will include government as an enforcer of fairness and consumer protection, leadership as demanding compromise with the other party, financial stability as requiring that rich people pay more taxes.
He will likely portray Romney, who made a fortune in business, as so focused on limited government that he would leave people to struggle on their own and to hope for the best.
"Barack knows the American dream, because he's lived it," Michelle Obama said. "And he wants everyone in this country, everyone to have the same opportunity, no matter who we are or where we're from or what we look like or who we love. And he believes that when you've worked hard, and done well and walk through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you."
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