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CHARLOTTE — After a night of praising President Obama and his record, it fell to Michelle Obama on Tuesday to remind the thousands crowded into the Democratic National Convention hall that there is still plenty of pain out there and to tell them her husband still feels it.
"I see the concern in his eyes, and I hear the determination in his voice as he tells me, ‘You won't believe what these folks are going through, Michelle. It's not right. We've got to keep working to fix this. We've got so much more to do,'?" she said.
"I see how those stories — our collection of struggles and hopes and dreams — I see how that's what drives Barack Obama every single day," Mrs. Obama said. "And I didn't think that it was possible, but today, I love my husband even more than I did four years ago, even more than I did 23 years ago, when we first met. I love that he's never forgotten how he started."
Weather permitting, that man will accept his party's nomination for a second term at nearby Bank of America Stadium on Thursday night.
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Unlike Ann Romney, whose mission a week ago at the GOP National Convention was to help define her husband, Mitt, for an audience unfamiliar with him, President Obama's story is well-known. Raised by a single mother and his grandmother, he made history as the first black President of the United States.
The Democratic convention's first day sought to recast that story with the faces of people who, they argue, have jobs, health care, or a college education because of the Obama Administration's policies and, that they claim would be endangered if Mr. Romney wins on Nov. 6.
In a speech similar to what she has delivered on the campaign trail for her husband, Mrs. Obama aimed to remind Americans why they voted for her husband four years ago and, without mentioning the Republican nominee by name, presented this election as a choice between differing sets of values.
"Barack knows what it means when a family struggles," she said. "He knows what it means to want something more for your kids and grandkids. Barack knows the American Dream because he's lived it, and he wants everyone — everyone — in this country to have that 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 walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you," Mrs. Obama said. "No, you reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed."
State Rep. Debbie Phillips (D., Athens) of the Ohio delegation said she liked the idea of presenting the choice facing Americans through the people affected by Mr. Obama's signature health-care reform law, the federal rescues of Chrysler and General Motors, and other policies.
"People need to understand the choice that we're making here this year," she said. "It's on a policy basis, but it's also on a values basis. People do need to understand the people they are choosing between."
Speakers were upbeat in praising Mr. Obama while trying to portray Mr. Romney as a poor alternative if voters are open to looking for something else.
Julian Castro, a second-generation Mexican-American and San Antonio's mayor, is considered a rising star in the party at a time the Hispanic vote's clout is growing. Polls show that demographic firmly in Mr. Obama's corner in this election.
Mr. Castro blasted the cuts advocated in the House-passed budget bill proposed by Mr. Romney's vice-presidential running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.). "Mitt Romney, quite simply, doesn't get it," Mr. Castro said. "A few months ago, he visited a university in Ohio and gave the students there a little entrepreneurial advice. ‘Start a business,' he said. But how? ‘Borrow money if you have to from your parents,' he told them. Gee, why didn't I think of that?
"Some people are lucky enough to borrow money from their parents, but that shouldn't determine whether you can pursue your dreams," he said. "I don't think Governor Romney meant any harm. I think he's a good guy. He just has no idea how good he's had it.
"We know that in our free-market economy, some will prosper more than others," Mr. Castro said. "What we don't accept is the idea that some folks won't even get a chance. And the thing is, Mitt Romney and the Republican Party are perfectly comfortable with that America. In fact, that's exactly what they're promising us."
The Romney camp countered that the Democrats' message failed. "On the first night of President Obama's convention, not a single speaker uttered the words, ‘Americans are better off than they were four years ago','' Romney spokesman Andrea Saul said. "Instead, there was a night full of tributes to government as the solution to every problem, even going as far as to say that ‘Government is the only thing that we all belong to.'
"But government belongs to the American people — not the other way around — and the American people will hold President Obama accountable for his record,'' she said. "Our country deserves real solutions and a plan to turn our economy around. Mitt Romney offers a clear alternative to President Obama's record of disappointment and failure."
Contact Jim Provance at: email@example.com or 614-221-0496.