Democrats opened their three-day national convention aimed at presenting a clear contrast with Republicans to help President Barack Obama overcome a slow economic recovery and win a second term.
Featured speakers before a prime-time television audience tonight include Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, Texas, and first lady Michelle Obama. She will highlight her husband’s “deep connection to the struggles middle-class families” are facing in a “personal and passionate speech,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters traveling with the president.
In his final campaign stop before heading tomorrow to the convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, Obama vowed to lay out a detailed path for bolstering the nation’s economy in his Sept. 6 nomination acceptance speech. He also said Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is proposing “retreads.”
“We’ve come too far to turn back now,” Obama told a crowd of about 11,600 in Norfolk, Virginia. “On Thursday night, I will offer what I believe is a better path forward, a path that will create good jobs and strengthen the middle class and grow our economy.”
Castro, the convention’s keynote speaker, will say voters face a choice between a country where the middle-class “pays more” and millionaires pay less, or where “everybody pays their fair share,” according to excerpts released by the campaign.
Castro, 37, a Stanford University and Harvard Law School graduate, is the first Hispanic to deliver a convention keynote speech.
He will credit Obama with taking action to right an economy that was on the brink of a depression four years ago and has since seen 4.5 million jobs created.
Obama “knows better than anyone that there’s more hard work to do,” Castro will say. “But we’re making progress. And now we need to make a choice.”
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s economic proposals have been tried before and failed, he will say.
“Republicans tell us that if the most prosperous among us do even better, that somehow the rest of us will too,” Castro will say. “Their theory has been tested. It failed. Our economy failed. The middle class paid the price. Your family paid the price. Mitt Romney just doesn’t get it.”
Castro will speak at about 10 p.m. before the first lady’s address at roughly 10:30 p.m.
Support from Hispanics helped Obama win the White House four years ago, and their votes in the Nov. 6 election could be crucial in battleground states including Florida, Colorado and Nevada.
Hispanics may account for 8.9 percent of the U.S. electorate in November, up from 7.4 percent in 2008, according to a report last month by the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based research institute.
Obama told supporters in Virginia he’d watch the convention and his wife’s speech at home with the couple’s two daughters.
“I am going to try not to let them see their daddy cry,” he said. “Because when Michelle starts talking, I start getting all misty.”
The Obama campaign has sought to depict Romney, former head of the Boston-based private-equity firm Bain Capital LLC, as out of touch with the everyday struggles of most Americans.
The Democratic convention will feature ordinary Americans - - many of whom have introduced Obama at campaign events -- talking about how his policies on health care, the bailout of the auto industry and other issues have benefited them personally, Democratic officials told reporters at a briefing in Charlotte.
Former President Bill Clinton tomorrow will officially nominate Obama to a second term in a prime-time address.
Obama’s speech accepting the nomination will be more specific than the one Romney gave last week in detailing a path forward on deficit reduction, aides said. It also will emphasize tax fairness over Medicare, they said.
The address will tell Americans “where we’ve been and where we need to take this country,” campaign manager Jim Messina said at a Bloomberg News breakfast in Charlotte today.
Romney, in his address to the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida, sought to identify with the dreams and disappointments of U.S. voters amid high unemployment, saying Obama’s 2008 campaign promise to bring “hope and change” has given way to “disappointment and division.”
In a statement today, Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said Obama’s “fiscal recklessness is just more proof that Americans aren’t better off than they were four years ago.”
Romney today is in Vermont preparing for October’s three presidential debates and had no public events.
Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama, said the president would work with the business community to overhaul the tax code in a second term.
“Let’s broaden the base, let’s reduce the rate,” Jarrett said at a separate Bloomberg News breakfast in Charlotte. “That means we are going to close some loopholes, but that’s going to benefit the broader business community.”
Jarrett said that while the president is frustrated with Republican lawmakers who have consistently opposed his agenda, he’ll continue to try work with them.
“He’s never going to give up on that,” she said.
Also speaking tonight is Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who will contrast Romney’s vision of his achievements as that state’s chief executive from 2003-2007 and what Democrats see as the negative impact of his economic policies.