CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- First lady Michelle Obama lovingly praised her husband last night in a prime-time Democratic convention speech as a devoted spouse and caring father at home and a "man we can trust" to revive the nation's weak economy as president, beckoning the country to return him to the White House despite an agonizingly slow recovery from recession.
"He reminds me that we are playing a long game here . . . and that change is hard, and change is slow and it never happens all at once," she told a nation impatient with slow economic progress and persistently high unemployment of 8.3 percent. "But eventually, we get there, we always do," she said in a speech that roused Democrats packed into their convention arena and blended scenes from almost 20 years of marriage with the Obamas' time in the White House.
Michelle Obama, given a huge ovation and emotionally describing herself as the "mom in chief," made no mention of Republican challenger Mitt Romney. But those who preceded her to the podium on the first night of the president's convention were scathing.
The DNC's first Hispanic keynote speaker, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, said Tuesday night that Romney was a millionaire politician who "quite simply, doesn't get it" when it comes to the needs of the middle class. Referring to the Republican's support for mandatory health insurance when he was governor of Massachusetts, he added, "Governor Romney has undergone an extreme makeover, and it ain't pretty."
Polls made the race for the White House a tight one, almost certain to be decided in a string of eight or 10 battleground states where neither the president nor Romney holds a clear advantage.
The first lady walked out to the crowd's cheers as the band played Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours," the song he sang onstage at Obama's Denver convention four years ago.
After a campaign event in Virginia, the president was back home in the White House, watching the first lady's speech on TV along with their daughters.
"Believe it or not, when we were first married, our combined monthly student loan bills were actually higher than our mortgage," she told the convention. "We were so young, so in love and so in debt." She confided that at family dinners in the White House with her and their daughters, the president joins in "strategizing about middle school friendships."
Michelle Obama's poll numbers are better than her husband's, and her speech was aimed at building support for him, much as Ann Romney's remarks at last week's Republican National Convention were in service to her husband's presidential ambitions.
"When it comes to rebuilding our economy, Barack is thinking about folks like my dad -- who worked at a municipal water plant -- and his own grandmother, a bank secretary," the first lady said.
Referring to her own children as well as those of others, she said, "If we want to give them that sense of limitless possibility, that belief that here in America there is always something better out there if you are willing to work for it, then we must . . . stand together for the man we can trust to keep moving this great country forward, my husband, our president, President Barack Obama."
Earlier, delegates cheered as a parade of speakers extolled Obama's support for abortion rights and gay marriage, for consumer protections enacted under his signature health care law and for the auto industry bailout he won from Congress in his first year in office.
"He said he'd take out bin Laden, and with our great SEAL team, he did," former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine said.
Democrats passed a party platform yesterday that echoes Obama's call for higher taxes on the wealthy and reflects his shift on gay marriage, supporting it explicitly. The platform says the economy is growing again under Obama, that the manufacturing industry is stronger under his leadership and that the president's policies have made al-Qaida weaker.