CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Democrats ridiculed Republican Mitt Romney as a millionaire candidate for president who "quite simply doesn’t get it" and worse Tuesday on the opening night of a national convention aimed at propelling Barack Obama to a second term despite high unemployment and national economic distress.
Obama "knows better than anyone there’s more hard work to do" to fix the economy, said San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, the convention keynote speaker, sharing the prime-time spotlight with first lady Michelle Obama.
After the deep recession, Castro said in excerpts released in advance of his speech, the nation is making progress "despite incredible odds and united Republican opposition." He pointed to the creation of 4.5 million jobs since the president took office.
Obama was back home in the White House after a campaign appearance in Virginia earlier in the day. He said he’d be watching on television when his wife spoke.
Polls made the race for the White House a tight one, almost certain to be decided in a string of eight or 10 battleground states where neither the president nor Romney holds a clear advantage. And during the day there was ample evidence of an underperforming economy, from a report that said manufacturing activity declined for a third straight month to the Treasury’s announcement that the government’s debt exceeded $16 trillion at the close of the business day.
Castro, the first Hispanic chosen to deliver a keynote address, was unsparing in criticizing Romney, suggesting the former Massachusetts governor might not even be the driving force on the Republican ticket this fall.
"First they called it ‘trickle down, the supply side," he said of the economic proposals backed by Republicans. "Now it’s Romney/Ryan. Or is it Ryan/Romney?"
"Either way, their theory has been tested. It failed. ...Mitt Romney just doesn’t get it," Castro said. Romney’s running mate is Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.
The divide over taxes goes to the core of the campaign.
Romney and the Republicans favor extension of all of the existing Bush-era tax cuts due to expire on Dec. 31, and also want to cut tax rates 20 percent across the board.
Obama, too, wants to keep the existing tax cuts in place—except for people with earnings of $250,000 a year or more.
Democrats unspooled insult after insult as they took their turn on the convention stage.
Said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, speaking of Romney: "Never in modern American history has a presidential candidate tried so hard to hide himself from the people he hopes to serve."
"When you look at the one tax return he has released, it’s obvious why there’s been only one. We learned that he pays a lower tax rate than middle-class families. We learned he chose Swiss bank accounts and Cayman Island tax shelters over American institutions."
Obama, by contrast, was lauded for helping win approval of health care legislation and for supporting abortion rights and gay marriage.
"He said he’d take out bin Laden, and with our great SEAL team, he did," added Tim Kaine, former national party chairman and Virginia governor, now running for the Senate.