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Obama's fiery speech launches campaign

Latest update : 2008-08-29

Barack Obama, accepting the presidential nomination in Denver, fired the first salvo of the official Democratic campaign with a combative speech focusing on welfare and the US economy.

Diary from Denver - Read the FRANCE 24 team's collective blog


FRANCE 24 Observers plug into the buzz at the Democratic Convention – click here for more

Speaking in front of more than 75,000 supporters in Denver's Mile High stadium on Thursday, Barack Obama accepted the Democratic party's nomination as presidential candidate and offered US voters to revive the "American promise".


"What he was here to do tonight was to sell concretely the idea of a president Obama and what that presidency would look like," said Catherine Galloway, FRANCE 24's correspondent at the Democratic Convention.


Obama focused on economic and social issues, promising to "cut taxes for 95% of all working families" and to end the US's dependence on oil from the Middle East , within ten years, thanks to investment in renewable energy.


He insisted on better health-care and education, saying he would "recruit an army of new teachers and give them better salaries". He also promised to "invest in new schools and new roads and science and technology", adding that the cost of those programmes would be covered by cuts in corporate tax breaks and the streamlining of the US federal budget.


According to FRANCE 24's international affairs editor Robert Parsons, Obama's acceptance speech was "a real appeal to working America", different from the rhetorical flourish that made him famous. "This was a more nitty-gritty speech, talking about the working man, the traumas people are going through after eight years of George W. Bush", Parsons said.


As his supporters waved signs printed with the word "Change," and chanted "Yes we can", Obama called for a U-turn from the policies of the Bush presidency. "On November 4, we must stand up and say: 'Eight is enough!'", he said in reference to the past eight years.


While acknowledging the resentment against the Bush administration, Stuart Haugen, vice-president of Republicans Abroad France, told FRANCE 24 he doubted Obama's ability to bring about change. "Two years ago, the Democrats won Congress on the basis of a lot of promises very similar to those Barack Obama is making today", he said. "They have done nothing since and their level of popularity is at 14%, exactly half that of George W. Bush."


McCain "just doesn't know"


In his speech, Obama constantly referred to his Republican rival John McCain as a follower of the outgoing president, arguing that he had voted with George Bush “90% of the time". "I'm not ready to take a 10% chance on change", Obama said.


He also accused McCain of being out of touch with reality. "I don't think Senator McCain doesn't care about the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn't know", Obama said.


On foreign policy issues, Obama was less specific, except when he reiterated his plan to pull American troops out of Iraq. He mentioned the damaged image of the US on the international scene and said: "I will restore our moral standing."


Obama also dismissed Republican claims that he was not the right commander in chief. "We are the party of Roosevelt, we are the party of Kennedy, so don't tell me that Democrats won't defend this country", he said.


According to FRANCE 24’s Galloway, "Democrats are certainly very, very happy with their choice. They think they have a winner." Obama also seemed on course to reunite the party after the primaries left a deep divide between his supporters and those of Hillary Clinton.


His first words before he detailed his political programme were to thank Hillary and Bill Clinton for their support. "I cannot imagine that many of Hillary Clinton's supporters are not going to support Obama all the way", Pär Kettis, a Democratic delegate from Maine, told FRANCE 24 from Denver after the speech.


Obama is the first ever black presidential nominee from one of the two main US parties. His address on Thursday took place on the 45th anniversary, to the day, of Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech, to which the candidate referred, among other historical moments. “He did know the historic importance of what he was up to," said Galloway. “He hit the JFK button and he hit the Marthin Luther King button.”


Special Report on Democrats gather to endorse Obama


Special Report on the race to the White House

Date created : 2008-08-29