CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will offer Americans a more realistic follow-up to his 2008 "hope and change" message on Thursday when he asks for four more years in office and calls for patience in bringing back strong economic growth.
"The truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades," Obama will say in his speech accepting the Democratic presidential nomination, according to speech excerpts.
Obama faced the challenge at his party convention of recapturing the magic of his historic 2008 campaign and generating enthusiasm among voters who are weary of economic hardship and persistent 8.3 percent unemployment.
He was to tell Americans that they face two starkly different paths in choosing between him and Republican opponent Mitt Romney in the November 6 election and that his way may be hard but will bring economic renewal if given more time.
Obama's nationally televised address to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, will be watched by tens of millions of people and was scheduled to begin shortly after 10 p.m. EDT (0200 GMT on Friday).
On a night when Hollywood stars like Scarlett Johansson rallied Democratic faithful, Obama likened his struggle to that of Depression-era President Franklin D. Roosevelt in calling for "shared responsibility" and bold experimentation in bringing the U.S. economy further out of the worst recession since the Great Depression.
"I won't pretend the path I'm offering is quick or easy," Obama will say. "I never have. You didn't elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth."
Under pressure to show he can generate strong job growth, Obama will set a goal of creating 1 million new manufacturing jobs by 2016 in his address in Charlotte. Romney has vowed to create 12 million jobs over four years with dramatic increases in energy production and trade.
Obama would cut the growth of college tuition in half over the next 10 years.
Struggling to bring down the jobless rate and fend off a stiff challenge from Romney, Obama will lay out an upbeat message that America's problems can be solved.
In an attempt to rebut Romney's charge that Obama is too partial to big government, he will urge Democrats to "remember that not every problem can be remedied with another government program or dictate from Washington."
"The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place. And I'm asking you to choose that future," he will say.
"ASK OSAMA BIN LADEN"
Obama will accept the Democratic nomination in a much smaller venue than planned, the 20,000-seat Time Warner Cable Arena, after the threat of severe weather forced a move from a 74,000-seat outdoor football stadium.
Vice President Joe Biden, formally nominated for a second term, will also speak on the final night of a three-day convention that marks the start of the fall campaign season, with the two White House contenders locked in a tight race.
In tight stagecraft, the Democrats have introduced speakers every night of the convention who represent key campaign themes like women's rights, Obama's auto bailout, Hispanic voters, gay rights and economic security for the middle class.
Leading up to Obama's address, speakers played up his record, from ordering the mission that led to the death of Osama bin Laden to lifting restrictions that barred gays from serving openly in the military.
"Ask Osama bin Laden if he's better off now than he was four years ago," Senator John Kerry said, rejecting Republican arguments that Americans are not better off under Obama's leadership.
There was also a shout-out for Obama's signature healthcare overhaul.
"We should not run from Obamacare. I am glad that Obama cares," said South Carolina Democratic Representative James Clyburn.
So far, Obama has not received much of a bounce yet in popular support from the convention, a Reuters/Ipsos online poll found. Romney had a narrow lead of 45 percent to Obama's 44 percent among likely voters.
Obama's speech follows a dazzling performance by former President Bill Clinton, who confronted Romney and his Republican allies on Wednesday night in a sweeping attack. The campaign liked Clinton's performance so much that it is sending him out to the battleground states of Ohio and Florida next week on Obama's behalf.
Obama was to speak hours before the Labor Department releases its U.S. jobless report for August on Friday. Private employers added 201,000 jobs that month while jobless benefits fell last week in a possible sign of an improving jobless rate.
He will ask Americans to rally around a set of goals, including doubling of U.S. exports by the end of 2014 and cutting in half net oil imports by 2020.
Romney, who had his own convention in Tampa, Florida, last week, was sitting out the Democrats' big party.
Asked during a New Hampshire campaign stop whether he would watch Obama's speech, Romney first answered: "Don't plan on it," but later said he would love to watch if he thought his opponent would give a report on earlier promises he made.
(Additional reporting by John Whitesides, Colleen Jenkins, Susan Heavey, Eric Johnson, Sam Jacobs and Sam Youngman; Editing by Alistair Bell and Doina Chiacu)