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Obama gets overwhelming endorsement

29 August 2008 at 19:07 | 1128 views

In a broad speech filled with his typical themes of hope and change, but one that also delved into policy minutiae, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama attempted to woo the U.S. electorate Thursday night while squarely rebuffing his Republican rival.

Obama’s remarks, formally accepting the Democratic party’s presidential nomination, were among the most significant of what has been an intensely scrutinized U.S. election campaign.

Trying to appeal to the kinds of blue-collar, middle-class voters who ardently supported Hillary Clinton, his rival for the nomination, Obama evoked nurses, factory workers, retirees, farmers and teachers in front of 84,000 supporters at his party’s national convention in Denver.

His message was blunt: The United States has suffered for eight years under President George W. Bush, and should expect more of the same from Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee.

"Tonight, more Americans are out of work, and more are working for less. More of you have lost your homes, and even more are watching your home values plummet," Obama said in his 45-minute speech.

"More of you have cars you can’t afford to drive, credit cards and bills you can’t afford to pay, tuition that’s beyond your reach. The failure to respond is the direct result of broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush.

"America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this. This country is more decent."

The speech, on the last day of the convention, was designed to emphasize "the risk of staying on the same path we’re on, the risk of just more of the same versus the change we need," Obama spokeswoman Anita Dunn said.

Obama addressed the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, the home mortgage crisis and steadily rising gas prices.

He painted his views as strongly contrasting with those of McCain, saying the Arizona senator has been "anything but independent" from the Bush administration.

"McCain wore the uniform of our country with bravery and distinction, and for that we owe him our respect," Obama said.

"But the record is clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 per cent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think President Bush has been right 90 per cent of the time?"

Tax cuts for families
Obama repeated campaign pledges to reform the U.S. tax code, health care, and the federal bureaucracy. He said he would close loopholes that allow companies to evade taxation, and use the extra revenues to fund tax cuts for working families.

Obama’s strongest words were directed at McCain, saying the Arizona senator had blocked efforts to make automobiles more fuel efficient and had supported a misguided military campaign against Iraq, when the real threat to the United States came from Osama bin Laden.

"John McCain says he’ll follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, but he won’t even follow him to the cave where he lives," Obama said. "That’s not the judgment we need. That won’t keep America safe."

The CBC’s Neil MacDonald, reporting from Denver, called the speech "thrilling."

"He strove to connect with working-class Americans, because Obama and his party know that if he can’t do that, then all his historic achievements will stop at the level of party nominee, rather than the level he truly desires," MacDonald said.

Realizing the ’Dream’
The more pragmatic approach Obama took in his remarks didn’t take away from the significance of his appearance, Obama biographer David Mendell said.

"This is a seminal moment in American politics," Mendell said.

Obama’s nomination, made official on Wednesday, marked the first time someone of African-American descent has been a presidential candidate for a major U.S. political party. His speech Thursday came on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s storied "I have a dream" address.

Obama had to walk a thin line on Thursday when referring to the King speech, Mendell said.

"This is the biggest moment since Martin Luther King in the civil rights movement for blacks in the United States," he said.

Obama and McCain neck-and-neck at polls
Obama’s speech came at a crucial time, with his party in need of a bounce at the polls and unity from within after a drawn-out nomination battle with New York Senator Hillary Clinton.

Despite heavy media exposure and Bush’s low popularity, Obama finds himself virtually tied with McCain in opinion polls.

"What should have been a Democratic cakewalk is not a Democratic cakewalk," the CBC’s MacDonald said.

"This convention was his chance to reintroduce himself to Americans ... to portray himself as an all-American man, from an all-American family, somebody who will not betray the values of the voters that he’s going for, that he’s not a lofty man with his head in the stars."

Obama’s speech was preceded by an address from former presidential candidate and former vice-president Al Gore, who received a standing ovation of several minutes upon being introduced.