CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - His re-election in doubt, President Barack Obama conceded only halting progress Thursday night toward fixing the nation's stubborn economic woes, but vowed in a Democratic National Convention finale, "Our problems can be solved, our challenges can be met."
"The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place," Obama declared in advance excerpts of a prime-time speech to delegates and the nation.
The president's speech was the final act of a highly scripted national political convention, and the opening salvo of a two-month drive toward Election Day that pits Obama against Republican challenger Mitt Romney. The contest is close for the White House in a dreary season of economic struggle for millions.
President Barack Obama addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday.
With unemployment at 8.3 percent, Obama said the task of recovering from the economic disaster of 2008 is exceeded in American history only by the challenge Franklin Delano Roosevelt faced when he took office in the Great Depression in 1933.
"It will require common effort, shared responsibility and the kind of bold persistent experimentation" that FDR employed, Obama said.
No president since FDR has won re-election with the jobless rate higher than 7.2 percent.
In an appeal to independent voters who might be considering a vote for Romney, he added that those who carry on Roosevelt's legacy "should remember that not every problem can be remedied with another government program or dictate from Washington."
The hall was filled to capacity long before Obama stepped to the podium, and officials shut off the entrances because of a fear of overcrowding for a speech that the campaign had originally slated for the 74,000-seat football stadium nearby. Aides said weather concerns prompted the move to the convention arena, capacity 15,000 or so.
In the run-up to Obama's speech, delegates erupted in tumultuous cheers when former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, grievously wounded in a 2011 assassination attempt, walked onstage to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. The cheers grew louder when she blew kisses to the crowd.
And louder still when huge video screens inside the hall showed the face of Osama bin Laden, the terrorist mastermind killed in a daring raid on his Pakistani hideout by U.S. special operations forces.
The president asked the country to rally around a "real achievable plan that will create jobs, expand opportunity and ensure an economy built to last."
He added, "The truth is it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over a decade."
The evening also included a nomination acceptance speech from Vice President Joe Biden. Delegates approved his nomination to a new term by acclamation as he and his family watched from VIP seats above the convention floor.
Biden told the convention in his own speech that he had watched as Obama "made one gutsy decision after another" to stop an economic free-fall after they took office in 2009.
Now, he said, "we're on a mission to move this nation forward - from doubt and downturn to promise and prosperity. ... America has turned the corner."
With Obama in the hall listening, Biden attacked the president's challenger, as well.
"I found it fascinating last week - when Gov. Romney said that as president he'd take a jobs tour. Well, with all his support for outsourcing - it's going to have to be a foreign trip."
First lady Michelle Obama introduced her husband - two nights after she delivered her own speech in the convention's opening session.
There was no end to the the assaults on Romney and the Republicans.
"Ask Osama bin Laden if he's better off than four years ago," said Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who lost the 2004 election in a close contest with President George W. Bush. It was a mocking answer to the Republicans' repeated question of whether Americans are better off than when Obama took office.
The campaign focus was shifting quickly - to politically sensitive monthly unemployment figures due out this morning and the first presidential debate on Oct. 3 in Denver.