As President Barack Obama noted in his speech, he is "not just a candidate" anymore. "I am the president," he said. Appropriately, his speech had a very presidential tone. Unlike his rousing speeches in the 2004 or 2008 conventions, or even Romney's acceptance speech at the RNC last week, Obama delivered this speech with a State-of-the-Union like tone. Rather than inciting euphoria or inspiration, Obama instead conveyed an almost calming relief. In doing so, Obama, perhaps somewhat ironically, successfully established himself as the more experienced choice in the election. He avoided broad, generalized promises and instead focused on specific accomplishments and goals for the future. His humble tone acknowledged the realness of the challenges our country faces while still instilling a sense of hope and that everything will be OK.
This word may seem vague and evident, but it is something that distinguishes Obama's speech from Romney's. Much of the content of Obama's speech we have heard before. There are no new policy proposals, and we are all aware of what we are getting with four more years of Obama. Many of the ideas we heard in the speech we have heard from him before. His speech exemplifies the clarity and cohesiveness of his campaign. Just as in 2008, they are doing an excellent job of delivering a clear, concise message that never wavers. Furthermore, Obama effectively distinguished himself from Romney. By making these distinctions, Obama can avoid a referendum election and make it a choice election.
The speech was very self-reflective in a couple of ways. In one sense, Obama again references several personal stories that tie in to his policies. He refers to the importance of education in establishing a path for Michelle's and his success. He discusses nearly every issue that he has dealt with during his presidency instead of merely listing his often highlighted accomplishments. In another sense, the speech, while optimistic, seemed to reflect some of Obama's own disillusionment. He lists some of his greatest personal challenges during his presidency, from "[sending] young Americans into battle" to "[holding] in [his] arms the mothers and fathers of those who didn't return." He also notes that he is "mindful of his own failures." It appears that, for better or for worse, the Obama in 2012 will be a much more pragmatic one than the Obama candidate we saw in 2008.