Barack Obama presented himself as the champion of the working American on Monday as he prepared for one of the biggest moments of his political career: laying out his vision for a second term at the Democratic national convention.
At an energetic campaign rally in the swing state of Ohio, the president portrayed his rival Mitt Romney as a throwback from the last century, saying that “you might as well have watched [last week’s Republican national convention] on black-and-white TV, with some rabbit ears on there”.
“Now, on Thursday night, I’m going to offer you what I believe is a better path forward, a path that’s going to grow this economy and create more good jobs, and strengthen the middle class,” Mr. Obama told a crowd of union members in Toledo on Labor Day.
The quadrennial Democratic national convention opens on Tuesday in North Carolina, a state Mr. Obama won by the slimmest of margins in 2008 and which he is battling to hold on to this year.
Paul Ryan, Mr. Romney’s running mate, put forward his own unflattering historical comparison during a rally in North Carolina ahead of the Democratic convention.
“He can’t tell you that you’re better off,” Mr. Ryan said of the president. “Simply put, the Jimmy Carter years look like the good old days compared to where we are now.”
Mr. Obama has been in campaign mode for months, repeatedly visiting battleground states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and Colorado. However, his primetime speech to the convention on Thursday night will be his most high-profile opportunity to make his case for a second term.
The Democratic jamboree comes as polls show Mr. Romney’s gathering did not spur the traditional post-convention poll bounce.
Gallup on Monday said the Republican convention had a minimal impact, with as many people saying they were now less likely to vote for Mr. Romneyas said they were more likely to vote for him.
In another survey, the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling found Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama tied in North Carolina, at 48 per cent. A separate poll in the swing state of Florida found the men locked in a statistical tie following the convention, with Mr. Obama on 48 per cent support and Mr. Romney 47 per cent.
“The Republican convention doesn't seem to be giving Romney much of a bounce,” said Tom Jensen of PPP.
The president has been criticized for not adequately enunciating his priorities for a second term, but supporters said he would do so this week at the convention.
“The most important thing for President Obama will be to lay out a broad and specific vision of where he wants to take the country in the next four years,” said Karen Finney, a Democratic strategist.
Michelle Obama, the first lady, will speak on Tuesday night and other speakers will include former president Bill Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago mayor, and Eva Longoria, the Desperate Housewives actress who is co-chair of the Obama campaign.
Julian Castro, the mayor of the Texas city of San Antonio, will give the keynote address, while Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor of Florida, will also speak. This is a direct riposte to Republicans’ crowing about the defection of Artur Davis, a former Democratic congressman who delivered a stinging rebuke of Mr. Obama at the Republican convention last week.
Protesters had already started congregating on Monday, railing against everything from the lack immigration reform to the power of the banks. Protesters held signs declaring “No papers, no fear” and “Democracy not plutocracy”, while another – channeling the widely held sentiment that the economy has not improved in the last four years – waved a placard stating “I am generally displeased with our current state of affairs”.
Bank of America , one of those bailed out during the financial crisis, is headquartered in Charlotte and part of the convention will be held at the Bank of America-sponsored stadium.