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Democrats party their way to Obama endorsement

The Democratic National Convention was a key moment for US President Barack Obama, who needs to build momentum ahead of an election that remains too close to call. The event galvanized the party faithful and showcased some memorable performances.


Party delegates and American television viewers were treated to a grand, three-day spectacle this week as they attended or tuned in to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The event was a key moment of this year’s presidential race, in which incumbent Barack Obama hopes to win a second term in office by defeating Republican challenger Mitt Romney. With less than nine weeks to go before US voters head to the polls, the race between the two rivals remains too close to call.

Obama’s campaign was hoping the convention in Charlotte would inject momentum into his re-election drive, which has lacked the intensity and enthusiasm that carried him into the White House nearly four years ago.

The event will likely be remembered for the ardent endorsements of Obama from party heavyweights and newcomers, as well as for some of its more playful moments.

The speeches

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro made what could turn out to be a career-making appearance on the opening night of the event. He was the first Hispanic to deliver a keynote speech at a Democratic convention, and he used the opportunity to skewer Romney.

Speaking about Romney’s public opposition to a healthcare overhaul after backing a similar plan when he was governor of the state of Massachusetts, Castro said, “Mitt Romney has undergone an extreme makeover. And it ain't pretty.”

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The rising Democrat used an argument that speakers would return to often during the convention: that Romney was out of touch with ordinary Americans who struggle economically.

“Mitt Romney just doesn't get it,” Castro said. "But Barack Obama gets it. He understands that when we invest in people, we're investing in our shared prosperity.”

First lady Michelle Obama made an impassioned speech in defense of her husband that left many delegates in tears.

“For Barack, these issues aren't political -- they're personal. Because Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. He knows what it means to want something more for your kids and grandkids,” she said. “Barack knows the American Dream because he's lived it ... and he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we're from, or what we look like, or who we love.”

Former president Bill Clinton, who was in the White House during the prosperous 1990s and who remains a leading figure within the party, headlined the second evening. He tried to convince voters that the economy was in better shape today than when Republicans left the White House in 2008.

“President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did. No president -- not me or any of my predecessors -- could have fully repaired all the damage he found in just four years. But conditions are improving and if you’ll renew the president’s contract you will feel it. ... I believe that with all my heart,” Clinton argued.

Obama accepted his party’s nomination on the final day of the convention, telling delegates and millions of television viewers at home that he would lead the country to economic recovery if given the chance.

“After two wars that have cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, it’s time to do some nation-building right here at home,” Obama said.

Another highlight was an appearance by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who walked on stage to recite the US Pledge of Allegiance.

Giffords resigned her Arizona seat after being shot in the head in an assassination attempt at a constituent event in 2011. She appeared unsteady and did not move her right arm, but her voice was strong as she recited the pledge known to every US schoolchild.

The fanfare

Along with the constant attacks on Republicans and Romney, the Democratic National Convention was filled with fanfare and star performances. An A-list of celebrities was punctuated with slick, high-production films and musical numbers.

The final evening was held at a basketball arena, which seats some 20,000, rather than the nearby American football stadium, which could have hosted 65,000, a similar amphitheater to the one that served Obama so well in 2008.

The Foo Fighters rock DNC 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina, September 6, 2012.

Hollywood actresses Kerry Washington, Scarlett Johansson and campaign co-chair Eva Longoria took the stage to add a bit of Hollywood glamour to Obama's re-election bid.

Latin superstar Marc Anthony belted the national anthem to a packed arena hours before Obama was due to arrive.

Folk music icon and North Carolina native James Taylor opened with his well-known song "Carolina on My Mind", and took the opportunity to poke fun at film star Clint Eastwood’s unusual appearance at the Republican National Convention the previous week.

R&B singer Mary J. Blige had the crowd dancing in the aisles with her rendition of U2's "One" while alternative rock band The Foo Fighters played an acoustic version of "There Goes My Hero”.

Potential storms were cited for the change in venue, but Republicans said it was probably because organisers were scared they would not fill all the seats.

There were clear skies over Charlotte on Thursday evening.

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