CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will tell Americans on Thursday they face two starkly different paths in the November 6 election and that his way may be hard but will bring economic renewal if given more time.
In his speech to the Democratic National Convention, Obama will urge Americans to give him four more years, casting the razor-close election between him and Republican Mitt Romney as a "choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future."
Obama's nationally televised address 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, the "hope and change" candidate of 2008 offered a more realistic tone this time around, cautioning patience in bringing the U.S. economy further out of the depths of the worst recession since the Great Depression.
"I won't pretend the path I'm offering is quick or easy," Obama will say in his speech accepting the Democratic presidential nomination, according to excerpts. "I never have. You didn't elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth."
And the truth is, "it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades," he will say.
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. He would cut the growth of college tuition in half over the next 10 years.
Struggling to bring down chronic U.S. unemployment of 8.3 percent and facing a stiff challenge from Romney, Obama will lay out an upbeat message that America's problems can be solved.
And in 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.
A Reuters/Ipsos online poll showed Obama has not received a bounce in popular support from his convention thus far, with Romney holding a slender lead of 45 percent to 44 percent.
"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.
Drawing cheers and tears from the audience as she moved gingerly across the stage, Gabriel Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman hit in the head by a bullet in a 2011 mass shooting, led the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
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)