Obama poll bandwagon gets underway

The US Democrat convention will get underway with the aim of selling Barack Obama as the wise and humane alternative to Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney, a pitch to an American electorate that is more politically divided than ever.

As they watch the political stagecraft, there may be only one thing all Americans can agree on: Deep concern over the halting economic recovery and meltdown of the US financial sector that began shortly before Mr Obama took office.

First lady Michelle Obama's speech was set to be an early highlight of a three-day schedule that has drawn thousands of delegates to North Carolina. Popular former president Bill Clinton, whose 1990s presidency is trumpeted by Democrats as the last great period of economic growth, speaks tomorrow.

The first lady previewed her remarks in a radio interview, indicating she would offer a very personal reminder of "the man that he was before he was president."

Through the course of the Democratic gathering, Mr Obama and his party will be fighting Mr Romney's argument that the president has failed and will only lead the US deeper into debt and economic despair. That was the Republican theme at their national convention last week in Tampa, Florida.

For his part, Mr Obama set the tone for the Democratic gathering, declaring that his rival's governing prescriptions are something out of the past. Mr Obama argues that Mr Romney brings nothing more to his quest for the White House than reprising the failed plans and policies of former Republican President George W. Bush.

Most Americans still hold Mr Bush responsible for the start of the economic problems afflicting the US, but they are split on which candidate is best equipped to restore health to the economy.

Their visions of America's future differ widely. Mr Obama is pressing hard on his contention that there are and will be vast areas where the government can help fix the economy and put a safety net under hard hit Americans. He is finally defending the landmark health care overhaul he oversaw in 2010. It was based on a plan instituted by Mr Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts, though the Republican candidate now promises to repeal Mr Obama's vision for the nation.

Mr Obama is calling for higher taxes on Americans making more than 250,000 dollars a year. Mr Romney wants to keep all Bush-era tax cuts in place, with even steeper cuts for high-income earners.

On foreign policy, Mr Romney notably did not once mention the war in Afghanistan in his acceptance speech last Thursday. Mr Obama, polls show, is seen as far more capable of handling US foreign policy, and he will no doubt highlight that when he speaks on Thursday night.He will recall that he ended the war in Iraq at the end of last year, as promised, and will put an end to the US combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014.