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North Carolina - Democrats assailed Mitt Romney on the opening night of their convention on Tuesday, skewering the wealthy Republican presidential hopeful as elite and out-of-touch.
In a rowdy start to three days of political theatre in Charlotte, North Carolina, speaker after speaker hammered the multi-millionaire businessman as a ruthless corporate raider with little interest in helping ordinary Americans while hailing President Barack Obama as a champion of the middle class.
The headline act was First Lady Michelle Obama, who didn't mention Romney by name but contrasted her husband's hard-scrabble journey with the more cosseted upbringing of his privileged rival.
Others were more blunt, like rising Hispanic star Julian Castro, who claimed “Mitt Romney, quite simply, doesn't get it” as he mocked the candidate's suggestion that aspiring entrepreneurs could borrow money from their parents.
Critics even emerged from beyond the grave, with a video tribute to the late Democratic icon Ted Kennedy carefully crafted to show him annihilating Romney during a one-on-one debate from the 1994 Massachusetts Senate race.
“I am pro-choice, my opponent is multiple choice,” Kennedy famously jibed, exposing Romney's shifting convictions after his opponent flip-flopped on the hot-button issue of abortion.
In less than nine weeks, Americans must decide if the country's first black president should serve another four-year term or if Romney should take over.
National polls put the rivals neck-and-neck, but a closer inspection of swing states reveals that Romney has his work cut out, especially as the bounce he was hoping for from last week's Republican convention failed to materialize.
The arena in Charlotte, packed with thousands of Democratic delegates and Obama supporters, erupted whenever Romney came under attack, with chants of “Four more years! “Four more years!” echoing across the auditorium.
Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland dismissed the notion that Romney created jobs while running the private equity firm he co-founded, Bain Capital.
“If Mitt was Santa Claus, he'd fire the elves and liquidate the inventory,” he said.
After the support cast had warmed up the crowd, the First Lady took to the stage to make the argument that life experiences “make you who you are.”
“Barack was raised by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills, and by grandparents who stepped in when she needed help,” she said.
“Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. So in the end, for Barack, these issues aren't political - they're personal. He knows what it means to want something more for your kids and grandkids.”
As if to drive the message home, the Obama campaign later tweeted a picture of the smiling president on a couch with daughters Sasha and Malia, with the caption: “Michelle's biggest fans were watching from home.”
The first lady's speech was clearly intended to draw stark contrasts with Romney, who was born into wealth and privilege as the son of former presidential candidate and American Motors chairman George Romney.
Democrats have made hay out of the wealth issue throughout the presidential campaign, attacking Romney for keeping much of his estimated $250 million fortune in offshore havens and asking why he will not release more tax returns.
The Republicans have in turn accused Obama of disparaging success and waging “class warfare,” while failing to spur a more robust economic recovery or bring the unemployment rate down from a stubborn 8.3 percent.
“On the first night of President Obama's convention, not a single speaker uttered the words 'Americans are better off than they were four years ago,'“ said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul.
With an economic malaise gripping much of the country, Democrats are fighting hard to counter the Republican narrative that while Obama's 2008 election was historic his presidency has been a bust.
Obama was asked to grade his performance on the economy during an interview with a Colorado news program broadcast on Monday and unwittingly provided an opening for his opponents. “You know, I would say 'incomplete,'“ he said.
The president flies to Charlotte on Wednesday on the eve of a nomination acceptance speech in which he will try to persuade the American people to give him a second term despite the grim economic backdrop.
The graying 51-year-old president will seek to rekindle some 2008 magic on Thursday as he leaves the confines of the convention hall for a 70,000-seater outdoor football stadium.
Bill Clinton, a hugely popular former Democratic president remembered for steering a more prosperous age, lends his star power to proceedings on Wednesday with a speech making the economic argument for four more Obama years.- AFP