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President Barack Obama's speech last night at the Democratic National Convention served as the final, rousing call to action to Americans who, as the president said, "face the clearest choice of any time in a generation."

"What's at stake" is a talking point in any election campaign, and candidates spend a lot of effort trying to convince apathetic or disillusioned voters that they should vote because their lives will be affected by the outcome, and that they should vote for them, specifically, because they present the best solutions. Last night, President Obama proved that "what's at stake" is more than just a talking point. He compellingly laid out the case that no, contrary to what some voters say with a shrug, both candidates aren't the same. There's a choice to be made in this election -- a very real choice between two very different visions and governing philosophies -- and the president, from the pundit reaction, did a fantastic job of presenting the implications of that choice to voters last night. Onto the punditry...

The New York Times Editorial Board:

President Obama’s dilemma has always been that he has been far more successful a president than his opponents claim, but far less successful than he needs to be at making voters see that. Powerful speeches by former President Bill Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden and others did a lot to fix that impression during the convention. But it was up to Mr. Obama to make the case for another term, with a speech that was every bit as fraught with uncertainty and risk as his 2008 convention address.

Just as he did then, Mr. Obama rose to the occasion.

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post:
On Tuesday, Michelle Obama talked about who Barack Obama is and where he came from. On Wednesday, Bill Clinton talked about where the country and the economy have been and how we struggled to get to where we are now. As Chuck Schumer put it earlier today, those two performances teed up Barack Obama to devote tonight’s speech to talking about the future.

In a bit of a surprise, Obama’s speech — which had little in the way of soaring rhetoric and stuck to a direct and sometimes pleading tone — spent little time defending his economic record. That task has already been handled ably by Clinton, and Obama wanted the focus to be on a far broader range of issues. The centerpiece of the speech was the idea of “citizenship” and shared responsibility — a gamble that voters will not cast their vote on the current economy alone but on which candidate is offering a more compelling moral vision of America's true identity and future.

Timothy Egan at The New York Times:
Obama delivered an acceptance speech full of punch, muscle and pop — the Democratic Party showing some rare brawn on their closing day  and no small amount of testosterone.  It was not a night for poetry. On foreign foes, dead and alive, on veterans, active and retired, on American economic nationalism – even down to the U.S.A chants – Obama’s Democrats occupied the old space once held by mainstream Republicans. It’s empty, after all: why not seize that ground?

Last week, Romney offered platitudes and mush. Many Obama fence-straddlers were afraid the president would do the same. He certainly didn’t offer enough specifics to satisfy all, nor enough to break the race open. But he laid down some markers, and they’re durable enough to carry him through to November. [...]

The haters will never budge. This speech was not for them. It is just a few thousand voters, in perhaps no more than a half-dozen states – the grumpy undecideds, tough nuts all, those lucky, much-stroked bastards  – who had to be moved one way or the other Thursday night. In choosing a meaty framing of the issues, rather than a soaring reach for tears and ahhs, Obama won enough begrudging approval from the select independents to live for another day and probably another term.

James Fallows at The Atlantic:
The most interesting "new"-ish approach in the speech was the theme that ran through the final one-third of it, about the importance and implications of "citizenship." [...]

The reason this is interesting: It is a way to deal with the GOP's out-of-context "you didn't build that"  meme not by (1) matching its out-of-context-ness, with an offsetting "like to fire people" theme (as some DNC speakers did); nor (2) directly making the case for the value of public/private interactions, as Bill Clinton effectively did last night, but (3) attempting to change the terrain, or the game, with a new definition of terms.

Stephen Henderson of The Detroit Free Press:
Seal the deal.

That's really all President Barack Obama had to do Thursday night after the fabulous speeches that preceded his closing address to the Democratic National Convention and perfectly framed the arguments for his re-election.

And on the stage in Charlotte, N.C., Obama delivered. Just as he had in accepting his party's nomination in Denver in 2008.

The difference now, of course, is that the nation has had four years of his presidency to provide context for his words. And if any challenge still stood before him Thursday night, it was convincing America that the last four years have represented progress, even if it was measured, and that the next four years would be even better.

He certainly gave it his best shot.

Ezra Klein at The Washington Post:
If you looked past the rhetoric and focused just on the policy, this was a modest speech. It was a more humble vision. What President Obama offered the country on the final night of the Democratic convention was reminiscent of what Warren G. Harding offered almost a century ago: A return to normalcy after a long period of emergency. [...]

[I]t didn’t ask you to believe that Obama could accomplish miracles. It didn’t ask you to believe he could change Washington or stop the oceans from rising. The promises were more modest, the president explicit about how often he had been humbled, and the agenda was meant to make voters feel safer with the Democrat they know than the Republican they don’t.

Alex Fitzpatrick at Mashable:
Barack Obama delivered a passionate defense of his record in office, and emphasized the differences between his platform and that of challenger Mitt Romney during his nomination acceptance speech delivered Thursday evening.

The speech was wildly popular on Twitter, peaking at 52,757 tweets per minute — a new politics-related record for the platform.

That pushed overall tweets about the Democratic National Convention past the 9 million mark, more than double the number sent about last week’s Republican Convention.

Paul Krugman at The New York Times:
The next four years are likely to be much better than the last four years — unless misguided policies create another mess. [...] The policies we actually got were far from adequate. Debt relief, in particular, has been a bust — and you can argue that this was, in large part, because the Obama administration never took it seriously.

But, that said, Mr. Obama did push through policies — the auto bailout and the Recovery Act — that made the slump a lot less awful than it might have been. And despite Mitt Romney’s attempt to rewrite history on the bailout, the fact is that Republicans bitterly opposed both measures, as well as everything else the president has proposed.

So Bill Clinton basically had it right: For all the pain America has suffered on his watch, Mr. Obama can fairly claim to have helped the country get through a very bad patch, from which it is starting to emerge.

The Boston Globe Editorial Board:
The Democratic Party this week displayed an unusual confidence in its values — an ideal of equal opportunity and sacrifice — that provided a fitting rebuttal to the views expressed by the Republicans last week.

GOP leaders had arranged their convention in Tampa around the conviction that individual enterprise, as embodied in the phrase “I built it,” is the only true path to prosperity. In contrast, President Obama’s acceptance speech, which touched on many issues, only soared when he got to his notion of citizenship: “the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another, and to future generations.” Along the way, he showed how fully he now inhabits the office of president, paying tribute to fallen heroes and attesting to the goodness of average Americans. But like Republican nominee Mitt Romney, he didn’t offer a compelling game plan for how to achieve those ideals, especially in the face of the deadlock in Congress.

The reality buried in both men’s arguments is that voters themselves can provide a path forward. In a clear clash of values and visions, the winner will be able to claim a mandate that will almost certainly compel action by Congress, whichever party controls the two chambers. That’s the welcome result of a convention season that put on display two parties that know what they believe.

The Washington Post Editorial Board:
Addressing his party’s convention in Charlotte, Mr. Obama acknowledged problems that Republican nominee Mitt Romney ignored or dismissed in his own acceptance speech, such as the impact of global warming. He offered more specific goals than did Mr. Romney, many of which he had previously set: doubling U.S. exports, training 2 million workers at community colleges, recruiting 100,000 math and science teachers. Those, and a few new goals — creating 1 million manufacturing jobs over four years, cutting oil imports in half by 2020, cutting in half the growth in college tuition — are laudable. But Mr. Obama did not explain how he would achieve them or prepare the country for the difficult choices they would demand.

An acceptance speech is not a State of the Union laundry list of specific proposals. Its role is to set out a vision of the country’s future path. Mr. Obama was correct that he and Mr. Romney have dramatically different visions of government’s role, and that the Republican prescription of tax cuts to address any woe has left the country in terrible shape. Mr. Romney has been inexcusably vague in outlining his program, fiscal and otherwise, and he did nothing to mend this deficiency in his acceptance speech. But Mr. Obama’s speech also fell short — of his own proclaimed standards.

Lynn Sweet of The Chicago Sun-Times:
Bill Clinton has Barack Obama’s back, and Mitt Romney has no one who can help him the way Clinton can boost Obama.

Romney is running against two presidents, not one. [...]

The Obama campaign knows that Clinton’s popularity makes him one of their most potent surrogates, even as the Romney team brings up their bad old days. Romney’s convention, campaign and candidacy has not yielded a powerhouse to do for him what Clinton can — and will — do for Obama.

Debra Saunders at The San Francisco Chronicle:
Barack Obama is not backing down. He is not moving to the center. He is not going to reach across the aisle. He is not going to try to unite the country.

This convention was on fire because the Democratic base knows: One way or another, he's all in.

Catch up on the Daily Kos liveblog from last night here.

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