President Obama and his allies, including Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, drew a line on the last night of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte that not even the most extreme tea partyer could argue with: Obama has been president of the United States for going on four years, and Republican nominee Mitt Romney has never been president. Experience and the record matter, was one message.
Biden turned a phrase that delegates to the convention in Charlotte had been waiting for: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive. Kerry, the partys standard-bearer eight years ago, basically said that if Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, came to power it would be amateur hour in foreign policy.
For his part, the president surely delivered some soaring phrases (The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place. Im asking you to choose that future.). But he acknowledged that he has not accomplished all hed hoped as he dealt with the aftermath of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
But Obama did what he should have done: He stood by health care reform that will help young and old and those who are sick and get rejected for insurance; he said he couldnt let the middle class pay for a tax cut for the wealthy, which Romney advocates; hes not going to flirt with privatization of Medicare, which Ryan supports.
With the Democrats done and back-to-back national conventions concluded, the presidential race begins in earnest, with Obama and Romney scheduled for the first of three debates on Oct. 3. That debate, focused on domestic policy, will certainly have the economy at the center.
It would be refreshing (and frankly, a welcome surprise) if both candidates would move closer to the Simpson-Bowles commission report on the nations debt crisis, which advocated both more tightening of entitlement programs and additional revenue. Obama has hesitated to embrace it because of the entitlements, which make up the social safety net. Romney is opposed to new revenues through anything that can be called a tax. His running mate Ryan, a commission member, voted against the commissions final report.
But in debates, and on the two-month-long campaign trail, Romney will indeed have to explain where exactly he stands on a different model for Medicare.
Hell have to say why he liked Romneycare in Massachusetts when he was governor and why he despises Obamacare, which largely borrowed many aspects of the Massachusetts plan. Hell have to further define his vision for the positive directions in which he wants to take the country, as opposed to just attacking the president.
Obama will have to be more specific about the path to economic recovery, still murky after Fridays report showing slower-than-expected job growth. He will have to face realities about the national debt and come up with sound ideas for speaking to it.
As he closed the Democratic convention, Obama focused on a middle class burdened by worry and personal debt and fearful about the prospects for its children. These people want more than recognition from Obama, and more than uneasy platitudes from Romney. They want truth, and they want action.