First lady fires shots to break deadlock

Democrats kicked off their 2012 convention with first lady Michelle Obama firing the first shots of a three-day salvo aimed at breaking the electoral deadlock with Republicans.

With 62 days until Americans decide who will occupy the Oval Office for the next four years, the US first lady made the case it should be her husband, the first black president of the US.

Michelle, who is more popular than the president, made a big effort to woo women voters to eke out any advantage in a race marked by polls that are too close to call and a dearth of undecided voters.

Her speech came four years after she vowed — before a stadium full of delegates in Denver, Colorado — that Barack Obama, despite his “funny name”, would make an “extraordinary president”.

Democrats amassed yesterday in Charlotte in the battleground state of North Carolina for an event that provides a vital nationwide platform seen once every four years.

Their first task will be to counter the Republican charge that Obama’s presidency has been a bust. After the Republican convention last week, some Democrats spot a fresh opening to win that argument. Hopes in the Romney camp that their Tampa-based convention would help him nose ahead in the race were dimmed by new polling data by Gallup, showing little change.

Some 40% of adults asked over the last three days said the convention had made them more likely to vote for Romney in November’s election, but a similar 38% said events in Florida made them less likely to back him. Obama led the man trying to deny him a second term by 47% to 46% in Gallup’s latest daily tracking poll.

Democrats were also trying to put out the latest campaign brush fire, after several top party figures struggled to answer whether Americans were better off after four Obama years.

“Let me just sum it up this way folks... Osama Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive,” said vice-president Joe Biden.

In North Carolina, Republican vice-presidential hopeful Paul Ryan drew comparisons between Obama and one-term Democrat president Jimmy Carter, who was felled by a poor economy.

“The president can say a lot of things, and he will, but he can’t tell you that you’re better off. Simply put, the Jimmy Carter years look like the good old days compared to where we are right now,” Ryan said.

In a sign of how close the Obama campaign believes the race remains, the president continued a four-day “Road to Charlotte” tour taking in territory that will decide November’s election.

He has visited Iowa and Colorado and landed in New Orleans on Monday to tour areas stricken last week by Hurricane Isaac. He went to Virginia yesterday, before flying to Charlotte, North Carolina today on the eve of his Democratic National Convention address. Tomorrow night, Obama will try to revive the old magic, as he did in 2008, leaving the confines of a convention hall for a huge outdoor stadium packed with 70,000 people.

He will defend his crusade for change, highlighting his healthcare reform, his orders to halt the Iraq war, and to kill Osama bin Laden.

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