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At the DNC: Five key steps for Obama

The Democratic National Convention Committee unveils the logo

The Democratic National Convention Committee unveils the logo and decorations for the DNC at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C. (Aug. 31, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Democratic convention this week gives President Barack Obama an opportunity to draw sharp distinctions from a Republican challenger who remains ill-defined in the minds of voters, Democratic delegates and analysts said.

Obama remains neck-and-neck with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in national polls, with a few swing states expected to decide the outcome. The next three days could be crucial to Obama's effort to seize momentum.

Obama and supporters will make the case that he accomplished in Iraq and Afghanistan what his predecessor, President George W. Bush, couldn't, that the economy is slowly turning around and that the Republican agenda has been hijacked by the extreme wing of the party.

The highlight will come Thursday when the president makes his nomination acceptance speech. Polls show voters think Obama is more likable than Romney and the Democrat must use that to his advantage, experts said.

"The average Joe is who Obama must get to," said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic political consultant from New York.

To do that, here are five things convention delegates and analysts said Obama must achieve in Charlotte:


Remind voters of his accomplishments

Here's how Assemb. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) succinctly puts it: "We have 4.3 million more private-sector jobs. The auto industry is back and bin Laden is dead."

National security used to be fertile ground for Republican candidates. But Romney has tried to keep this topic out of the debate, delegates said, so Obama should remind voters that he's the president who has gotten two wars under control and pulled American troops out of Iraq, as he promised.

He can also show that his policies helped save an automobile industry that was in danger of collapse -- in crucial swing states.

"I think the facts about what this administration has achieved and is in the process of achieving is a lot stronger than the current messaging has been able to portray," said North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman, a delegate.

"I'm hoping the convention will be able to bring the best message possible."


Show that Romney economics is Bush economics

The sluggish economy is Romney's best line of attack against Obama. Delegates said the president must remind voters about the depths of the 2008 economic meltdown and the policies that led to it -- under George W. Bush.

So expect to hear a lot about Republican tax cuts that ballooned the national debt, financial deregulation and Wall Street bailouts.

"They can't wipe away all of that with one convention in Tampa," Jeffries said of Republicans.


Re-energize '08 supporters

Obama invigorated Democrats, young voters and minorities in 2008. He has to find a way to do so again.

"He needs to reinspire the base," said Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Roslyn). "He needs to let them know he's going to come out fighting and that he's not going to waste time in doing just that."

Ackerman said the Republican-led House was motivated to obstruct everything Obama tried to do and that the president was "too willing to compromise" at times. Obama needs to show "the next four years aren't going to be like the last four," he said.

Here's where personality helps Obama, Democrats said. A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed 58 percent of voters found Obama likable; 23 percent said the same of Romney. Obama needs to capitalize on his personal touch, delegates said.


Call out the extremists

Romney veered to the political right to win the Republican nomination and will now try to shift back to the middle, Democrats said, and the party needs to capitalize on Romney's changing positions and highlight extreme positions held by the Republican right.

For example, they want to use the storm created by GOP Rep. Todd Akin's comment about "legitimate rape" to create doubt about how a Romney administration would handle women's issues.

Social policies also could divide voters, especially in Pennsylvania and the Midwest, and help the Democrats, delegates said. "We need to show that we are reasonable and have the best interests of the country at heart," said Bridget Fleming, a Southampton Town Board member and convention delegate.


Unleash Bill Clinton

The last Democratic president will be the convention's headliner and the party's secret weapon, Sheinkopf said.

"They need to convince swing voters, particularly Catholics in the Midwest, that the world will be Clinton-like in the next term -- very few conflicts around the world, a better economy and low interest rates," Sheinkopf said. "The party faithful knows what Bill Clinton stands for. His presence makes them feel much better. . . . He's the guy who can bring the Average Joe back to Obama."


Tuesday's highlights

Keynote speaker Julián Castro, San Antonio mayor

First lady Michelle Obama


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