Obama: 'We Are Better Than These Last 8 Years' Barack Obama accepted the Democratic Party's nomination for president in a speech Thursday night that fired hard at his rival John McCain. Portraying a McCain administration as a continuation of the current Bush White House, Obama said, "On Nov. 4, we must stand up and say: 'Eight is enough.' "
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Obama: 'We Are Better Than These Last 8 Years'

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Obama: 'We Are Better Than These Last 8 Years'

Obama: 'We Are Better Than These Last 8 Years'

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

And that announcement comes one day after Barack Obama accepted his party's nomination, and we have more this morning from NPR's Mara Liasson.

MARA LIASSON: The crowd was enormous; the line to get in was over two miles long. It was just what the Obama campaign wanted in this important swing state, and why it made room for tens of thousands of regular Colorado voters to join the delegates.

Obama appeared on an elaborate stage set, which had been ridiculed by the Republicans for looking like a mock Grecian temple. Obama reintroduced himself to voters by reminding them of his 2004 convention speech - the one that launched his national career.

BARACK OBAMA: Four years ago I stood before you and told you my story of the brief union between a young man from Kenya and a young woman from Kansas who weren't well off or well known but shared a belief that in America their son could achieve whatever he put his mind to.

LIASSON: He didn't wait long to launched a sustained, blistering attack on his opponents. The speech hammered the theme that the Obama campaign believes will win this race, that the country is ready for a change and John McCain is more of the same.

OBAMA: Next week in Minnesota, the same party that brought you two terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOOING)

OBAMA: And we are here - we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look just like the last eight.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: On November 4th, on November 4th we must stand up and say eight is enough.

LIASSON: After the obligatory acknowledgment of McCain's heroic wartime service, Obama proceeded to attack him as out of touch, a creature of the past. It's not that John McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americas, Obama said, it's that he doesn't know.

Obama stressed his own middle-class roots and values. He reached for a connection with the struggling families he'd met on the campaign trail by praising his white grandmother who had raised him.

OBAMA: She's the one who taught me about hard work. She's the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she's watching tonight and that tonight is her night as well.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Now, I don't know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine. These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped my life and it is on behalf of them that I intend to win this election and keep our promise alive as president of the United States.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

LIASSON: Obama's speech was a point-by-point rebuttal of all the charges against him. To those who think his message of change is not concrete or specific enough...

OBAMA: Let me spell out exactly what that change would mean if I am president.

LIASSON: To those who say he is a tax-and-spend liberal...

OBAMA: I will - listen now - I will cut taxes, cut taxes for 95 percent of all working families, because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle class.

LIASSON: He even leaned into what is perhaps the Republicans' most devastating line of attack, his lack of experience in foreign affairs.

OBAMA: If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament and judgment to serve as the next commander-in-chief, that's a debate I'm ready to have.

LIASSON: And Obama took aim at McCain's greatest strength - saying McCain had poor judgment on Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. And he offered this rebuke.

OBAMA: So I've got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.

LIASSON: Putting country first is the theme of the Republican convention in St. Paul next week, and Obama's challenge to McCain on that ground was a display of the kind of toughness Democrats have been begging him to show.

Obama made history last night. He is the first black presidential nominee of a major American party. But he never mentioned race last night. Only at the end of his speech did he point out that yesterday was the 45th anniversary of Dr. King's I Have a Dream speech in Washington.

OBAMA: The men and women who gathered there could have heard many things. They could have heard words of anger and discord. They could've been told to succumb to the fear and frustrations of so many dreams deferred. But what the people heard instead, people of every creed and color from every walk of life, is that in America our destiny is inextricably linked, that together our dreams can be won. We cannot walk alone, the preacher cried, and as we walk we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.

LIASSON: Obama struck a populist tone on economics and on hot-button social issues he spoke directly to those culturally conservative white working class voters by appealing for common ground on immigration, abortion, gun control and gay marriage.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ONLY IN AMERICA")

LIASSON: Even the music the campaign choose to play at the end, as the confetti rained down and the fireworks exploded, seemed aimed at those voters too - the country-western hit "Only in America."

Mara Liasson, NPR News, Denver.

INSKEEP: Voters may also be following news of John McCain's vice presidential selection. And here's what we're learning. It is Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska since 2006. Something of a surprise choice as well as a historic one. And we'll have more throughout the morning right here on MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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