4 Things Obama Needs to Do in Charlotte

President Obama needs to offer specifics and proudly defend his record.

President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event at Capital University on Aug. 21, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio.
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The Republicans went first, and now it's Democrats' turn to respond. Now that the gavel has sounded at the Democratic National Convention, the president's party will work to rally its troops in the final two months before election day. Below is a quick guide to what the president will need to do to energize voters to his cause this week.

Defend his record. Republicans speak often of the president's "failed" policies, accusing him of passing a stimulus that didn't work, and of course "Obamacare," which many conservatives believe constitutes a disastrous and costly change to the healthcare system.

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The president needs to firmly counter these attacks this week, says Jane Hall, professor of journalism at American University.

"He has to say, 'Here's what I've done,'" she says. "If he doesn't do that, he's not taking the opportunity to try to respond."

Be specific. It hardly needs mentioning that this election is all about the economy. Each presidential candidate tirelessly makes the case that he is the best person to boost growth and get Americans back to work. But the convention is going to be prime time for the president to expand upon that idea, says one congressman.

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"I think President Obama does need to say what he's going to do in the second term to continue to improve things," says North Carolina Democratic Rep. Brad Miller. Specifically, Miller points to household debt as a problem that needs solving, as paying off debt gives Americans less disposable income, meaning less consumer spending and less growth.

Laying out specific proposals for how to boost the economy could be a particularly smart strategy not only for winning over voters but also for allowing the president to contrast himself to Romney, whose convention speech last week was criticized for lacking detailed policy prescriptions.

Mention Bush (and then move on). President Obama inherited an abysmal economic situation when he took office. The U.S. economy was contracting rapidly in early 2009, and since turning around, it has been struggling to gain any sort of strong momentum. While Republicans blast the president for not having brought the economy back to life, the campaign has defended the president by pointing to the hundreds of thousands of jobs lost per month under Bush, just before Obama took office.

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"He can speak briefly about the hand he was dealt, but he should not dwell on that," says Hall. Dwelling too much on blame and not enough on future plans, she says could turn off voters. "It's better to say, 'They're not your friends; we are. Let's go forward.'"

Fight Republicans for Key Voting Blocs.

Republicans last week worked to appeal to key voting groups, like women and Latinos, by bringing people such as New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez onstage. Democrats will be making their own case with a diverse lineup of speakers, but Hall says that they have to do more.

"What they're also going to do is reach out to what has been the traditional Democratic constituencies and say, 'Look. Here's the reality that we present.'"

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Obama also needs to draw sharp contrasts on issues that matter to women (abortion), Latinos (immigration), and the middle class (taxes). The Republican platform takes a hard line on abortion and immigration, and the two candidates take sharply different views on how income tax rates should be adjusted.

Democrats may be able to win these voters over by asking a simple question: "Here's what we have done. Here's what they would do, and do you really want to go back to that?" says Hall.

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