, CHARLOTTE, North Carolina, Sept 5 – Democrats launched a convention blitz on Mitt Romney with speaker after speaker skewering the wealthy Republican presidential candidate as an out-of-touch flip-flopper.
Headline act, First Lady Michelle Obama, didn’t mention the Romneys by name but still managed to draw blinding contrasts between the president’s hard-scrabble journey and the more closeted existence of his privileged rival.
Others were more blunt, like rising Hispanic star Julian Castro who claimed “Mitt Romney, quite simply, doesn’t get it” as he mocked the candidate’s suggestion that aspiring entrepreneurs should borrow money from their parents.
Even Ted Kennedy managed a dig, speaking from beyond the grave, as a video clip showed him annihilating Romney during a one-on-one debate from the 1994 Massachusetts Senate race, won handsomely by the Democratic icon.
“I am pro-choice, my opponent is multiple choice,” Kennedy famously jibed, taking down Romney with a master-stroke after the multi-millionaire businessman shifted his position on the hot-button issue of abortion.
The arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, packed with thousands of Democratic delegates and supporters, erupted in a frenzy any time a speaker attacked Romney, screaming: “Four more years! “Four more years!”
Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland had a catchy line as he dismissed the notion that Romney created jobs while running the private equity firm he co-founded, Bain Capital, portraying him instead as a ruthless corporate raider.
“If Mitt was Santa Claus, he’d fire the elves and liquidate the inventory,” he said, to whoops of delight as three days of political theater that mark the beginning of the final campaign push to the November election began in earnest.
After the support cast had warmed up the crowd, the First Lady took to the stage to make the argument that life experiences “make you who you are.”
“Barack was raised by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills, and by grandparents who stepped in when she needed help,” she said.
“Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. So in the end, for Barack, these issues aren’t political — they’re personal. He knows what it means to want something more for your kids and grandkids.”
The speech was clearly intended to draw stark contrasts with Obama’s rival in November, a man born into wealth and privilege as the son of former presidential candidate and American Motors chairman George Romney.
Democrats have made hay out of the wealth issue throughout the presidential campaign, attacking Romney for keeping much of his estimated $250 million fortune in offshore havens and asking why he will not release more tax returns.
“Barack and I were both raised by families who didn’t have much in the way of money or material possessions but who had given us something far more valuable — their unconditional love, their unflinching sacrifice, and the chance to go places they had never imagined for themselves,” Michelle Obama said.
“For Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.”
It is nine weeks exactly before Americans decide if the country’s first black president should be re-elected or if Romney should oust him after just one term.
National polls put the rivals neck-and-neck, but a closer inspection of swing states reveals that Romney has his work cut out, especially as the bounce he was hoping for from last week’s Republican convention has failed to materialize.
With an economic malaise gripping much of the country, Democrats are fighting hard to counter the Republican narrative that while Obama’s 2008 election was historic and rightly celebrated his presidency has been a bust.
Obama was asked to grade his performance on the economy during an interview with a Colorado news program broadcast on Monday and unwittingly provided an opening for his opponents. “You know, I would say ‘incomplete,'” he said.
Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan jumped, exclaiming with incredulity on CBS News: “Four years into a presidency and it’s incomplete?”
The Obama remark followed another stumble by his team at the weekend, when top officials labored over the answer to a seemingly straightforward question: “Are Americans better off now than they were four years ago?”
The president flies to Charlotte on Wednesday on the eve of a nomination acceptance speech during which he will use to try to persuade the American people to give him a second term despite the tough economic backdrop.
The graying 51-year-old president will seek to rekindle some 2008 magic on Thursday as he leaves the confines of the convention hall for a 70,000-seater outdoor football stadium.