Ben Feller, The Associated Press
Posted: 09/03/2012 08:03:49 PM PDT

WASHINGTON – People remember the hope and the history. For him or against him, they picture candidate Barack Obama as the one who stood on stage in a football stadium in Denver and accepted the Democratic presidential nomination by declaring “It’s time for us to change America.”

Forgotten, it seems, is what Obama said when he actually won.

“The road ahead will be long,” he said solemnly that November night in Chicago, displaying none of the euphoria of his supporters. “Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year, or even one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.”

That message amounted to a political framework for Obama’s entire presidency, and for the shot he has at continuing it.

With polls showing a close contest, Obama needs voters to recall how life was back at the start, to judge what he has done as productive but unfinished, to put everything in the perspective of climbing out of the worst economic hole of their lifetimes. He always said it might take more than four years, after all.

Now he is up against both historical odds, given the nation’s high unemployment, and a formidable Republican challenger in Mitt Romney.

Obama’s own four-year road has been steep, from Denver in 2008 to Charlotte, N.C., where the Democratic National Convention will begin today and he will accept his party’s renomination Thursday night. His message of hope is still tucked in there, but the pitch is a lot more hang-in-there-with-me.

The country is divided over him. The politics he promised to change remain nasty. Yet whatever one thinks of him, his presidency has been consequential.

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