President Barack Obama has decided to make his Democratic National Convention acceptance speech indoors, rather than in one of the grand open-air venues he often favors, because the weather forecast for tonight in Charlotte is not promising.
It is an intelligent concession to reality that should set an example for the remaining two months of the campaign season, on both sides and at all levels.
Obama takes to the podium tonight in an arena not, as he did at the 2008 convention, in a football stadium or, as on Election Night, Chicago's vast Grant Park. Physically by the weather, and politically by a sluggish economy and political polarization, the president finds himself hemmed in by forces even he cannot control.
His job, tonight and over the next eight weeks, will be to carry the weight that burdens all incumbents a real record that can be cussed, discussed and distorted and explain how the next four years might be better. The hope here is that, unlike some of his stump speeches in recent weeks, he will spend less time assailing his Republican opponents and focus more on his hopes and plans for a second term.
Despite the continuing economic gloom, Obama does have a record to run on. One might not know it from listening to Republican talking points, but the fact is that the economy is improving, though far too slowly. Unemployment is still far too high, but private-sector job creation is up and much of the continued joblessness is due to smaller public sector payrolls, especially at the state and local levels.
Obama can also honestly argue that his past actions, including the stimulus package and the bailout of the auto industry, had a positive impact on the economy. His problem, and ours, is that the economy was in such trouble four years ago, teetering on the brink of a global depression, that "a positive impact" generally meant making things somewhat less horrible than they would have been otherwise.
And expect Obama, unlike Mitt Romney, to mention the ended war in Iraq and the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan.
But the eternal questions in elective politics are "What have you done for us lately?" and "What will you do for us now?"
The president needs to answer that second question, in as much detail as possible. He needs to do so in a way that does not simply attack the Republicans, whether by denying their claims or distorting their proposals, but lays out a serious and reality-based agenda for what would be his second, and final, term of office.
The voters should expect no less. Of both parties.