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Brown: Obama’s message getting a bit muddled

Updated: October 9, 2012 2:58PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Barack Obama burst upon the national scene as the candidate of hope and change who would erase the divisions in our politics, who saw no red states or blue states, no liberal America or conservative America, only a United States of America.

On Thursday night he tried to reconcile that younger politician with the president he has become — soaring not quite so high with his rhetoric but perhaps connecting more by staying grounded.

“The times have changed,” he explained. “And so have I.”

Before Obama delivered the big speech he hoped would help cement his re-election, his campaign sent out a few brief excerpts that emphasized the new reality.

“On every issue, the choice you face won’t be just between two candidates or two parties. It will be a choice between two different paths for America. A choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future,” the president would later say.

In other words, there really is a conservative America and a liberal America. There really are states that will vote red for Republicans and states that will vote blue for Democrats — and now is the time to choose sides.

This was always true, of course, and perhaps the Obama campaign sees no disconnect between the old message and the new one.

In the end, though, conventional elections are won and lost in this country by emphasizing the differences, not the common ground. And Obama is a conventional politician running against another conventional politician in Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

If some Americans did not understand this four years ago, if they really thought Obama could be a unifying figure when nearly half the voters don’t believe what he believes, then that’s their fault.

If Obama believed it, well, it would seem he’s getting the message.

Now, I happen to agree that there are real differences between the candidates in this election and a real choice.

Yet it was noticeable that part of Obama’s message was very similar to what the Republicans were saying in Tampa last week about the nation facing “hard truths.”

“You elected me to tell the truth,” Obama said. “And the truth is it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have been built up over decades.”

Then, however, the president veered off in a direction I can’t quite explain, saying that the solution would require “the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one.”

I’m not sure Americans will find it very reassuring that Obama foresees the need to experiment in a second term with more FDR-style programs, usually associated with big government intervention that has gone out of style and isn’t coming back unless we’re headed over the cliff.

Then the president doubled back again to add parenthetically that those who carry on Roosevelt’s “legacy should remember that not every problem can be remedied with another government program or dictate from Washington.”

Then why bring up Roosevelt? Confusing.

As for the President’s “goals for America,” they’re nice, but how is that any different than what politicians always say.

The candidate of hope acknowledged that “hope has been tested” during his first term.

I still hope he gets another.

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