Sen. Barack Obama accepted the Democratic Party presidential nomination on Thursday, declaring that the “American promise has been threatened” by eight years under President Bush and that Sen. John McCain represented a continuation of policies that undermined the nation’s economy and imperiled its standing around the world.
The speech by Obama, in front of an audience of nearly 80,000 people on a warm night in a football stadium refashioned into a vast political stage for television viewers, left little doubt how he intended to press his campaign against McCain this fall. He linked McCain to what he described as the “failed presidency of George W. Bush” in cutting language that seemed intended to reassure nervous Democrats that he had the spine to take on what has proven this summer to be a scrappy Republican opponent.
“The record’s clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time,” Obama said in remarks prepared for delivery. “Sen. McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush was right more than 90 percent of the time? I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a ten percent chance on change.”
“America, we are better than these last eight years,” he said. “We are a better country than this.”
The speech loomed as arguably Obama’s most important of the campaign to date. It was an opportunity to present himself to Americans just now beginning to tune in on this campaign, to make the case against McCain and to offer what many Democrats say he has failed to offer to date: an idea of what he stands for, beyond a promise of change.
With the speech, Obama closed out his party’s convention here and prepared for a quick shift of public attention to the Republicans as McCain moved to name his running mate on Friday and his party begins its convention in St. Paul on Monday.
He delivered it in a most unconventional setting, becoming the third nominee of a major party in the nation’s history to leave the site of his convention to give his acceptance speech at a stadium. In this case, it was Invesco Field, set against the Rockies and about a mile from the arena where he had been nominated the night before. His aides chose the stadium to signal a break from typical politics and to permit thousands of his supporters from across the country to hear him speak.
And it came on a night that offered — by the coincidence of scheduling — a reminder of the historic nature of the Obama candidacy: 45 years to the day after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech on the Mall in Washington.
Obama is the first African-American to be nominated for the White House by a major party, a fact that, for all its significance, has been barely mentioned over the course of this four-day gathering.
Even in invoking the anniversary of the King speech, Obama only alluded to race. “The men and women who gathered there could’ve heard many things,” he said. “They could’ve heard words of anger and discord. They could’ve been told to succumb to the fear and frustration of so many dreams deferred.