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U.S. first lady Michelle Obama waves before addressing the first session of the Democratic National Convention

CHARLOTTE — First lady Michelle Obama acknowledged yesterday that the change her husband Barack Obama championed in his White House campaign four years ago has proven difficult but urged voters to give him four more years to fix the struggling US economy.

“He reminds me that we are playing a long game here, and that change is hard, and change is slow, and it never happens all at once,” she told the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. “But eventually we get there. We always do.”

The popular first lady was the highest-profile advocate for her husband in the first of three days of speeches that will conclude with Obama’s address tomorrow to accept the Democratic presidential nomination to face Mitt Romney on November 6.

In a race that is too close to call nine weeks before Americans vote, Obama is vulnerable to the challenge from Republican nominee Romney due to a sluggish economy and 8.3 per cent unemployment.

Obama’s economic argument got a little tougher yesterday. New surveys showed US manufacturing shrank at its sharpest clip in more than three years last month, while exports and hiring in the sector also slumped.

The president is trying to use his convention to recapture the magic that carried him to victory in 2008 but he admitted to a Colorado television reporter that he would give himself a grade of “incomplete” for his first term.

The workmanlike first day of the convention showcased different parts of the party’s base of support, women, Hispanics and African-Americans.

They all took aim at Romney, and there were even what appeared to be some subtle digs from Mrs. Obama herself at the wealthy Republican. She spoke a week after Romney’s wife, Ann, hurled some zingers at Obama in promoting her husband at the Republican convention in Tampa.

“For Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives,” Michelle Obama said, perhaps a reference to multimillionaire Romney’s past as a private equity executive.

The message was not lost on Steve Holecko, 55, a Democratic delegate from Ohio.

“It was outstanding. She made a very clear distinction between her values and Mrs. Romney’s values. She clearly laid out the president’s vision of middle class-out growth,” he said.

A host of speakers at the gathering in Charlotte attacked Romney for his business record, refusal to release more tax returns and for spearheading a Republican “war on women”.

The Democrats even choreographed a swipe at the former Massachusetts governor from beyond the grave, by playing a video of late Senator Ted Kennedy getting the better of Romney during a debate in the 1994 election campaign for Kennedy’s Senate seat. (Reuters)

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