With his presidency on the line, President Barack Obama on Thursday asked for more time from voters, acknowledging that despite his lofty goals of hope and change, the economy is going to take years to recover.
Obama warned of tough times as the nation emerges from what he said are “challenges that have built up over decades.” But he offered a rousing defense of his stewardship and insisted his vision – not that of his Republican rival, Mitt Romney – will lead to true prosperity for the middle class.
“Know this, America: Our problems can be solved. Our challenges can be met,” Obama said. “The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place. And I’m asking you to choose that future.”
In a speech that at times seemed far from the soaring rhetoric of his first nomination speech, Obama asked the crowd to “rally around a set of goals for your country.”
After attacking Romney for failing to offer specific proposals at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., last week, Obama outlined a series of goals including creating 1 million new manufacturing jobs, recruiting 100,000 math and science teachers and reducing the deficit by more than $4 trillion.
“They want your vote, but they don’t want you to know their plan,” Obama said. “And that’s because all they have to offer is the same prescription they’ve had for the last 30 years.”
Republicans immediately called the goals scaled down or recycled promises from 2008.
With polls showing the race even, Obama needed to enthuse a dispirited base and persuade the last few undecided voters that his prescription for prosperity will restore the middle class.
Obama cast the election as a choice between “two different paths for America,” warning that “over the next few years, big decisions will be made in Washington, on jobs and the economy; taxes and deficits; energy and education; war and peace.”
Obama blamed Republicans for preventing him from accomplishing more, but he did not fully explain how he would work with House Republicans in the future. He took some swipes at Romney, particularly on foreign policy, but he only once mentioned him by name, when he spoke about his disdain for providing tax breaks to the wealthy.
“No party has a monopoly on wisdom. No democracy works without compromise,” Obama said. “But when Governor Romney and his allies in Congress tell us we can somehow lower our deficit by spending trillions more on new tax breaks for the wealthy – well, you do the math. I refuse to go along with that. And as long as I’m president, I never will.”
He delivered a forceful defense of his record, but at the same time he asked for patience, invoking Franklin D. Roosevelt’s efforts to bring the U.S. out of the Great Depression – “the only crisis worse than this one.”
“I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy. I never have,” Obama said. “You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades.”