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'America is already strong': Obama continues Democrats' optimism

President Obama offered enthusiastic support for Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention Wednesday as he painted a hopeful picture of the country.

Brian Snyder/ Reuters
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wave to the crowd after the president spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Penn., on July 27, 2016.

President Obama described an optimistic, hopeful picture of America in a speech Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention, pointedly diverging from the more foreboding tone of the previous week's Republican event. 

Mr. Obama offered an enthusiastic endorsement of Hillary Clinton, saying “nobody [is] more qualified” to be president, and galvanized delegates at the convention in Philadelphia by drawing a sharp contrast with the dark portrait of the country described by Republican nominee Donald Trump.

"I am more optimistic about the future of America than ever before," Obama said as delegates cheered at the Wells Fargo Center. "America is already great. America is already strong," he said, referring to Mr. Trump's promise to "make America great again."

"And I promise you, our strength, our greatness, does not depend on Donald Trump," the president added.

As Mrs. Clinton, formerly secretary of State and first lady, became the first woman to gain the presidential nomination of a major party on Tuesday, a sense of looking forward to the future emerged as a theme of the party's convention: largely hopeful, but with sharp criticism of a potential Trump administration.  

"Our convention is going to be optimistic, it’s going to be hopeful, and it’s going to be talking about specific plans," Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told reporters Monday morning. As The Christian Science Monitor’s Amanda Paulson reports:

And so far, that’s largely been the case, even down to the signs distributed for delegates to wave on the floor: “Love Trumps Hate.” “Stronger Together.” “Rise Together.” If Trump titled his book “Crippled America” and declared himself the “law-and-order candidate,” the only one who can fix a rigged system and “make America great again,” the themes echoed by speaker after speaker in Philadelphia have been ones of togetherness, diversity, and an emphasis on American values of inclusion rather than a need to close off borders.

But despite the optimism evoked by many speakers, including first lady Michelle Obama and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Democrats could face an uphill battle. Trump’s narrative of an America divided along class and racial lines, and his accusations that the system is “rigged” against people still struggling economically, tap into many Americans' growing sense of distrust, particularly of political leaders in Washington.

Trump’s message also reveals a divide on optimism that exists along both partisan and racial lines, Ms. Paulson notes. A poll conducted by the Atlantic and the Aspen Institute last year found that less than half of white Americans believe the country’s “best days” lie ahead of it, compared to about 80 percent of African Americans, she writes.

On Twitter, Trump waved off Obama's depiction of the country.

On the convention’s third day, many speakers focused on Trump’s own record, with vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine noting the businessman’s lack of political experience, calling him “a one-man wrecking crew” who could not be trusted in the White House.

Attention now turns to whether Clinton, who is set to speak on the convention’s final day Thursday, can make a convincing argument for staking out her own path while also delivering on promises to continue Obama’s legacy, the Associated Press reported.

She has focused on addressing income inequality, student debt, tightening gun control and reigning in Wall Street, seeking to woo supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who mounted a strong challenge to Clinton by focusing particularly on a sense that many Americans are struggling economically. On Monday, Senator Sanders offered an enthusiastic endorsement of Clinton, saying he was "proud to stand with her."

Some Clinton delegates say the Democrats’ optimism also offers a counterbalance to Trump’s focus on looking backward.

“I think there are solutions, moving forward solutions, and I don’t want to go back to the 1950s, thank you very much,” Bear Atwood, a lawyer from Mississippi, told the Monitor earlier this week. “Where’s the perfect moment? I think it’s ahead of us."

This article includes material from Reuters and the Associated Press.

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