Obama appeals for realism in re-election pitch
He also defiantly rejected Republican Mitt Romney's proposals for growth as heartless.
Accepting the presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention, Obama gave a more down to earth follow-up to his 2008 "hope and change" message.
Weighed down by wars, high unemployment and political gridlock, Obama projected a tone that was more subdued, less exuberant.
Obama told Americans they face starkly different paths in choosing between him and Romney in the November 6 election. He said his way may be hard but will bring economic renewal, and warned it will take more than the few years he has already had in office to solve challenges that have built up for decades.
"America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won't promise that now," he said.
"Yes our path is harder – but it leads to a better place.
Yes, our road is longer, but we travel it together."
Locked in the political fight of his life with two months to go until the election, Obama faces the challenge of recapturing the magic of his historic campaign of four years ago and generating enthusiasm among voters who are weary of economic hardship.
His nationally televised address was his best opportunity yet in this campaign to connect with millions of Americans. It was more of a steady-as-you-go message that outlined priorities like creating 1-million new manufacturing jobs but offered few details on how to achieve them.
Obama argued that the actions he has taken, like the bailout of the auto industry, are working and asked Americans to rally around a set of goals: Expanding manufacturing and energy jobs and US exports, improving education and trimming $4-trillion from America's $16-trillion debt.
"That's what we can do in the next four years, and that's why I'm running for a second term as president of the United States," he said at an arena in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Repeatedly contrasting his own priorities with those he said were Romney's, Obama cast the Republican as uncaring of middle-class Americans, pushing a theme that the wealthy Republican is elitist and only interested in helping those like him.
All Romney wants to do, said Obama, is reward the wealthy with tax cuts, deregulate banks and let energy companies write a policy for more oil drilling.
"I don't believe that rolling back regulations on Wall Street will help the small businesswoman expand, or the laid-off construction worker keep his home. We've been there, we've tried that, and we're not going back," he said.
Making up losses
Romney has vowed to cut taxes for Americans by 20%, including the wealthy, and eliminate some popular income tax deductions to help make up the loss in tax revenues. He would sharply ramp up oil production and trade with the aim of creating 12-million jobs over four years.
Obama tried to pick Romney's proposals apart.
"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," said Obama.
And he took a shot at Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's plan to overhaul the Medicare health insurance plan by giving seniors a limited amount of money through vouchers.
"I will never turn Medicare into a voucher. No American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies," said the president.
'Time to change direction'
The Romney campaign dismissed Obama's speech as making the case for more of the same policies that have not worked for the past four years.
"Americans will hold President Obama accountable for his record – they know they're not better off and that it's time to change direction," said Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades.
Obama dismissed Romney and Ryan as "new to foreign policy" and criticised a comment that Romney made that Russia is America's biggest geopolitical foe. And he mocked Romney for criticising London's handling of the Olympic Games when the Republican visited them in July.
"You don't call Russia our number one enemy – not al-Qaeda, Russia! – unless you're still stuck in a Cold War mind warp," Obama said.
He likened his struggle to that of Depression-era President Franklin D Roosevelt in calling for "shared responsibility" and bold experimentation in bringing the US economy further out of the worst recession since the Great Depression.
In an attempt to rebut Romney's charge that Obama is too partial to big government, Obama urged Democrats to "remember that not every problem can be remedied with another government program or dictate from Washington". – Reuters