CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — President Barack Obama's convention evolution is complete.
Eight years ago, Obama rocketed into the political spotlight with a soaring convention keynote address. Four years later, he accepted the Democratic Party's nomination and became their standard bearer.
On Thursday, Obama took the convention stage fighting for his job.
"I recognize that times have changed since I first spoke to this convention," Obama said. "The times have changed, and so have I."
"I'm no longer just a candidate. I'm the president," he said, drawing cheers from the crowd of 15,000.
Obama urged voters to stay patient even though his economic policies have failed to fully fix the American economy. Once the candidate of hope, Obama's message was hang in there.
"America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won't promise that now," he said, "Yes, our path is harder - but it leads to a better place. Yes our road is longer, but we travel it together."
In 2008, Obama ran for office on a platform of lofty ideas, many of which have gone unfulfilled during his years in the White House. This time around, Obama acknowledged that the campaign sometimes seems small, even silly.
"Trivial things become big distractions. Serious issues become sound bites," he said. "And the truth gets buried under an avalanche of money and advertising."
Gone was the newness of his two prior convention appearances. And Obama, the graying incumbent, didn't try to recreate it.
Instead, he whittled the election down to a choice, spelling out his vision of how to create economic opportunity for all, and warning that Romney would restore trickle-down ideas that Obama says were quietly gutting the economy for years before crashing it completely.
Gone, too, was the setting Obama wanted for the biggest address of his re-election bid.
Democrats opted for their convention's rented basketball arena instead of a much larger, open-air football stadium for Obama, wary of the safety and political risks if rain came pouring down.
"We can't let a little thunder and lightning get us down. We're going to have to roll with it," Obama said in a phone call earlier Thursday to supporters who lost their chance to attend because of the site switch.
In a nation in which more than 23 million people are unemployed or underemployed, Obama spoke on the millions who have found work, and how many more can, too. He talked of education and energy and innovation and job training.
He asked for more time.
He had help with that request this week. As former President Bill Clinton put it on Wednesday: "No president — not me, not any of my predecessors — no one could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years. But he has laid the foundations for a new, modern, successful economy of shared prosperity. And if you will renew the president's contract, you will feel it."
Obama walked off the stage following his speech along with wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha.
The next time he steps on the convention stage will be as outgoing president.