Obama upstaged but clear in stating his case

As the accompanying cartoon by the Miami Herald's Jim Morin illustrates, the 42nd president of the United States articulated the 44th president's first-term accomplishments and second-term goals best. Bill Clinton's incisive and impassioned explanation topped Barak Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention this week in Charlotte, N.C.

First lady Michelle Obama also tendered a powerful speech -- on family, sacrifice and selflessness, all woven into the American dream. Her sterling, emotional delivery while maintaining eye contact with the crowd earned high marks from pundits of all political persuasions.

Like Mitt Romney at last week's Republican National Convention, President Obama spoke in broad terms but did not offer details on achieving his vision. With various polls indicating a virtual dead heat between the two, the upcoming presidential debates should provide clarity and sway the few independent voters still undecided.

Unlike the inspirational rhetoric that captivated a country four years ago, Obama presented a humble but optimistic case for more time to lead the nation in an economic recovery from the "challenges that have built up over decades."

"I won't pretend the path I'm offering is quick or easy," he stated. "I never have."

Obama's plea resonates considering the reality that there are no swift fixes for America's deepest economic fall since the Great Depression, which he described as "the only crisis worse than this one."

But whether voters will place their trust with the incumbent president is another matter, one Romney intends to exploit throughout the campaign by citing unemployment as unacceptably high and the federal deficit as out of control. But Obama vowed to bring both joblessness and the deficit down.

Clinton called Romney running mate Paul Ryan's budget plan harmful to the middle class while Obama policies and Democratic values will restore it. Similarly, this convention put a sharp contrast on the differences between the two party platforms in terms of the role and size of government and the future direction of the country.

Two of the best bumper-sticker lines of the convention belonged to John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden. Both covered foreign policy, a topic oddly ignored at the Republican National Convention and once the GOP's bread and butter issue:

"Ask Osama bin Laden if he is better off now than he was four years ago." -- Kerry

"Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive." -- Biden

Unlike the Republican convention's A-list of Florida speakers, the Democrats only enlisted U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, an obvious choice because of her position as chair of the Democratic National Committee, and former GOP Gov. Charlie Crist, a somewhat puzzling selection given that many view him as a political opportunist.

Crist, who dropped out of the Republican Party two years ago to oppose Marco Rubio as an independent Senate candidate, famously hugged Obama when the president ventured to Florida to promote his economic stimulus package. He praised the president for that program and the administration's quick response to the Gulf oil disaster in front of a lukewarm audience.

Mostly, though, Crist set the stage for his complete conversion to the Democratic Party and a run for Florida governor in two years.

With the presidential campaign now in full swing, both candidates are coming to our region of one of the nation's key battleground state. Obama speaks in St. Petersburg today, and Romney visits Sarasota on Sept. 20.

We hope both bring specific details about how they intend to accomplish their goals. With such starkly different visions for the nation's future, undecided voters need that information to make an informed decision.