He needs to lay out a plan for real progress.
There is one overriding task for President Obama and the Democrats at the convention in Charlotte this week: to give substance to the vision of a second Obama term. The president accomplished more in his first term than Republicans in Tampa last week gave him credit for.
But he also has disappointed in ways that we, like many voters, hope a second term could overcome.
Embedded in this convention mission are numerous tasks. One is defending the achievements of the first term.
Despite the difficulty of answering the are-you-better-off question in the midst of a sluggish recovery, Obama needs to explain how his actions eased the economic crisis and took on long-standing challenges such as extending health care coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.
At the same time, Obama must explain why he was unable to fulfill his promise to overcome the "broken politics in Washington." Many Republicans were determined from the start to derail his agenda and prevent his reelection.
Yet an implacable opposition is hardly the whole story. At key moments of his presidency, Obama ducked the duty to lead in forging bipartisan solutions to the nation's biggest problems.
Seeking reelection, he needs to explain to voters fed up with Washington gridlock and bickering why they should expect the next four years to be different from the last, and why they should be confident he will step up to the task.
As we said last week, Romney's acceptance speech was disappointingly light on agenda. Obama similarly should explain where he would take the country if given a second term. So far, he has been better at criticizing Republicans for wanting a return to what he describes as the failed policies of George W. Bush than in framing his own.
Republicans in Tampa, Obama said, offered "a lot of talk about 'hard truths' and 'bold choices,' but the interesting thing was nobody ever bothered to tell us what they were." Fair enough. We hope he will do better.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.