President Obama on Thursday night urged the nation to rally behind his worthy goals, but he didn't make a compelling case that he could lead the nation to accomplish them.
Had he been hard at work on an effective plan to create more jobs, build a stronger economy, and lower the deficit, he would have a commanding lead in the polls.
When he said at the Democratic National Convention that, "It will be a choice between two different paths for America," his critics agree.
The top issue in the presidential election is whether the economy is on the right path. The top contradiction in the two campaigns is whether Obama is right that he has saved the county from a depression or if Republicans are right that his policies prolonged the recession and are leading to a deep pit of debt.
Obama, in a well-crafted speech, said nothing in Charlotte on Thursday night to convince undecided middle-class voters that he has a plan for the next four years much better than the one he has been trying. The old one hasn't worked as advertised.
Yes, like Mitt Romney in his Tampa speech, the president outlined valuable goals.
Among them are creating a million new manufacturing jobs in four years and double exports by the end of 2014.
Obama promised to cut oil imports in half by 2020 and was right to stress the need for a balanced energy policy that is not dictated by the oil industry. We give him credit for acknowledging the importance of protecting our coasts.
He was less persuasive when pledging to reduce the deficit by more than $4 trillion over the next decade.
"I won't pretend the path I'm offering is quick or easy," the president said. "You didn't elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth."
But there was not much he said during the evening that the adoring crowd did not want to hear, including a vow to spare entitlements major changes.
There was only the slightest hint he would stray far from the costly path where he has led the nation.
Since Obama took office, federal debt has grown by $5.3 trillion while the entire economy has grown by only $1.68 trillion. At such a price, the United States can't afford Obama's brand of growth.
Each American's share of the debt is now $37,437. To allow debt to continue to grow faster than the economy is to follow Greece down the path to ruin.
We found it mildly encouraging that he said he was "eager to reach an agreement based on the principles of my bipartisan debt commission."
But if he was sincere about pursuing the group's comprehensive and painful proposals for debt reduction, why did he shy away from the panel when it revealed its recommendations two years ago?
Its controversial ideas included raising the federal gas tax by 15 cents a gallon; cutting defense procurement by 15 percent; cutting farm subsidies and eliminating many income-tax deductions.
Obama on Thursday did not seem willing to ask citizens for much sacrifice.
"I refuse to ask middle-class families to give up their deductions for owning a home or raising their kids just to pay for another millionaire's tax cut," he said. "I refuse to ask students to pay more for college; or kick children out of Head Start programs, or eliminate health insurance for millions of Americans who are poor, elderly, or disabled — all so those with the most can pay less."
So where will he cut? Or will it be more debt and spending?
When he argued for borrowing heavily for financial stimulus three and a half years ago, Obama had no doubt it would work. He said at the time, "If I don't have this done in three years then there's gonna be a one-term proposition."
Now the argument is, as former President Bill Clinton expressed the other day in Charlotte, "Obama put a floor under the crash" and "kept if from being worse."
We believe he needs a new plan more substantial than optimistic goals and a call for the wealthy to pay more.
He rightly reminded the enthusiastic crowd that "We're not entitled to success. We have to earn it. We honor the strivers, the dreamers, the risk-takers who have always been the driving force behind our free enterprise system – the greatest engine of growth and prosperity the world has ever known."
But the bulk of the speech indicated he was still felt the government action – not private enterprise – was the key to the economy's revival.