(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) — Democrats defended President Obama as a man who is “betting on the American worker” and lampooned Mitt Romney as someone “who is betting on a Bermuda shell corporation” on the opening night of their presidential convention Tuesday night.
They defended Obama as a president who saved the country from a depression and ridiculed Romney as someone “whose money needs a passport.”
The Democrats cheered and applauded a series of speakers who rallied around the president, while a new poll indicated that Obama needs the help because his support has plunged among women voters.
On a night that Democrats hoped to reignite voters’ ardor as the presidential race enters its home stretch, Obama finds himself up against a series of difficult hurdles.
Obama’s personal popularity has dropped seven percentage points since April, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Tuesday night.
The decline has occurred entirely among women voters, a core constituency and one which he has courted in recent weeks by accusing his Republican challengers of carrying out a “war on women.”
For the first time since taking office, more women rated the president unfavorable than favorable, according to the poll.
Obama’s much more popular wife, first lady Michele Obama, addressed the convention and the nation Tuesday night in a primetime speech that targeted women voters.
Inside the convention center in Charlotte, N.C., Democrats celebrated Obama as their champion and portrayed Romney as an out-of-touch millionaire who would be bad for the economy and detrimental to women.
A frequent refrain was Romney’s opposition to the bailout of the U.S. auto industry.
“Whose leadership, whose judgment, whose values do you want in the White House when that crisis lands like a thud on the Oval Office desk?” asked Chicago mayor and former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. “A person who said in four words, ‘Let Detroit go bankrupt,’ or a president who had another four words, ‘Not on my watch.'”
Keynote speaker San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, the youngest mayor of a major American city, said Romney “quite simply, doesn’t get” the challenges faced by average Americans in a difficult economy.
“Republicans tell us that if the most prosperous among us do even better, that somehow the rest of us will too. Folks … we’ve heard that before,” Castro said.
Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland drew howls with his pointed barbs at Romney and his economic history.
“If Mitt was Santa Claus, he’d fire the reindeer and outsource the elves,” Strickland said.
“Mitt Romney has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport. It summers on the beaches of the Cayman Islands and winters on the slopes of the Swiss Alps,” was another Strickland zinger. “My friends, any man who aspires to be our president should keep both his treasure and his heart in the United States of America.”
He added, “Barack Obama is betting on the American worker. Mitt Romney is betting on a Bermuda shell corporation.”
Perhaps the most damning attack on Romney came from Sen. Ted Kennedy, who died in 2009.
Delegates were thrilled when the convention showed footage of a 1994 Massachusetts Senate debate between Kennedy and Romney, a race that Kennedy won. During the debate Kennedy calls himself pro-choice and Romney “multiple choice.” Romney today is opposed to abortion.
Kennedy pummels Romney on the issue of health care during the debate, and later in a reference to Romney’s reputation for changing his position, Kennedy declares in the video, “Give him two more weeks and he might vote for me.”
Tuesday night’s speakers, Castro and the first lady, were picked to target two decisive Democratic voting blocks, women and Hispanics.
Castro credits Obama with saving the country from financial ruin four years ago, a direct response to Romney’s latest line of attack, asking voters if they’re better off today than they were four years ago.
“Four years ago, America stood on the brink of a depression. Despite incredible odds and united Republican opposition, our president took action. And now we’ve seen 4.5 million new jobs,” Castro said.
Castro said voters have to choose between a country “where the middle class pays more, so that millionaires can pay less … Or a country where everybody pays their fair share.”
Despite the rhetoric and applause, Democrats on the floor conceded the convention lacked the electricity of four years ago when Obama made history as the first black man to nominated for president and promised hope and change.
“It feels different,” said Kooch Jacobus, a delegate from Albuquerque, N.M., who was at the 2008 convention. “Then it was hope and change and now reality has hit us. “
Jacobus said that feeling of 2008 was something she hoped would have been recreated, but said that it has not yet.
Another delegate pointed out delegates on their iPhones, iPads and shook their head at observing one delegate sleeping. The delegate says that would never happen in 2008, even on a first night of speeches, because people were much more fired up then.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Shelbie Harris, Idaho State Journal
Dan Merica and Sophie Tatum, CNN