By TOM RAUM, Associated Press
The hour and the stage belong to President Barack Obama.
After basking in the glow from speeches by First Lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and fired-up delegates, Obama is stepping forward to make his case for a second term. He'll say progress has been slow but tangible, and that he's the one to lead the country to economic recovery.
"We've come too far to turn back now," he's been saying, a theme sure to resonate through Thursday night's acceptance speech.
The two-month road to Nov. 6 will be challenging for both Obama and challenger Mitt Romney, locked for months in a statistical dead heat.
Obama's first hurdle is Friday's August jobs report. With a three-year unemployment rate above 8 percent and recent economic growth below 2 percent, both parties are mindful that no president since the Great Depression has been re-elected with statistics so grim.
Then come three presidential debates beginning Oct. 3. With the race so tight, the debates gain added importance. A strong performance or a slip by either candidate might turn the tide.
Romney shunned the limelight and focused on debate prep this week in Vermont. Obama will soon begin sparring with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., playing Romney's part. Kerry, now the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, has a prominent convention speaking role Thursday expected to challenge Romney's foreign policy.
Vice President Joe Biden, who ceded the traditional day-before vice-presidential slot to Clinton, speaks before Obama. His ability to connect with everyday Americans will be on display.
"He will set the president up nicely," top Obama adviser David Axelrod said.
GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan campaigned in Colorado and California.
Despite present Democratic euphoria, "Don't take anything for granted," Bill Clinton warned in a post-speech fundraising email appeal for Obama.
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