He calibrated. Then he attacked. Then he did it all over again.
Carefully, deliberately, President Obama reached out to independent voters in his speech Thursday night by calibrating how he talked about government, personal responsibility and the economy. Yet he also provided the type of meaty, base-pleasing comments that he hopes will get loyal Democrats fired up to work for his re-election the next two months.
For the most part, Obama sought to present himself as empathetic and in charge. He never hesitated to claim credit for saving the auto industry, pulling troops from Iraq and killing Osama bin Laden. Pointing to those successes, he insisted that government can do much that good and is important - but, mindful of the socialism charges leveled against him, he also made a point of saying it doesn't have all the answers.
He was perhaps most interesting when he acknowledged that the country still has a long way to go to recover from the devastating economic crisis of four years ago. With unemployment still at 8.3 percent, his campaign must know that sounding too upbeat on the economy could be disastrous.
And yet the president ended his speech insisting that America can soar once again. In a direct outreach to the voters who propelled him to office four years ago, he ended by imploring that if they still believe in America's possibilities, then they must vote for him.
Hours from now, the government will release the country's latest unemployment numbers. And so the argument Obama made here will mix with that as the race enters its next phase: an intense, two-month push to Election Day.
- Sally Buzbee
EDITOR'S NOTE - Convention Watch shows you the 2012 political conventions through the eyes of Associated Press journalists. Follow them on Twitter where available with the handles listed after each item.