Fallows contends that the speech "was not one of his best but that it did the job":
"The job," in this sense, was having the party leave the convention feeling as if they had a case to present. I don't buy the argument that some of the home-run speeches of the convention — by Bill Clinton, Michelle Obama, Deval Patrick, Julian Castro, Andrew Tobias, and others including in their particular ways John Kerry and Joe Biden — "raised the bar" for Obama or "set him up for disappointment." At the Republican convention last week, speakers like Chris Christie and Marco Rubio were outright auditioning to be the candidate in 2016. That ambition depends on Romney's failure this year. Everyone at the DNC was pulling to get Obama and Biden across the line this year; each speech built on the others rather than competing with them for attention.
Joe Klein was underwhelmed:
I like and admire the President; he’s smart and funny and exemplary. He’s made some very difficult decisions, correct decisions under impossible circumstances. He pulled us from the brink, from an economic disaster largely caused by the plutocrats now criticizing him so shamelessly and falsely. But I want more from him, more guidance, more leadership. Somehow–and this is still true for an electoral majority of Americans–we all do.
Chait suspects that Obama was targeting undecideds:
The speech came, by and large, as a disappointment to political journalists and other campaign junkies. We have heard almost all of it before. The speech was probably aimed at undecided voters, who spend almost no time following politics. They received the paint-by-numbers outline of the election choice.
Galupo is on the same page:
[I]t’s clear that the Obama campaign had a specific goal in mind Thursday night: to peel away white middle- and working-class white men from Romney and Ryan. Biden’s speech focused on two big themes, each against the portrait of Obama as a decisive spine-of-steel Decider: the auto-industry bailout and the killing of Osama bin Laden. Obama himself trumpeted the Detroit bailout, spoke of a manufacturing revival, and sparked a big cheer with “three proud words: Made in America.” This was the cosmopolitan Democrats’ substitute for driving pickup trucks and chopping wood in the Texas wilderness.
Frum wanted more on about the future:
President Obama faced two equally urgent questions: will things get better? And how? Those questions, he did not answer.
Josh Barro felt that the speech was off:
[O]verall, the speech sounded really odd coming from someone who is already president. When you’ve been in office for four years, you have to tell us what you’ve done for us lately, and what you’ll do in the future. Obama should have taken some notes from Clinton on how to do that convincingly.
Jamelle Bouie argues that Obama "positioned himself as the challenger":
He's not holding the line in hopes it won't break; he's mounting a charge against the other side. Rather than make a full defense of his record, he detailed his plans for the next four years … Of course, if Obama’s the challenger, then there needs to be an incumbent. Obama’s focus on the future was complemented with an attack on the past, as represented by Mitt Romney and the Republican Party.
Jonathan Cohn compares Obama's speech to past ones:
[I]n 2004 and 2008, Obama was effectively making a case for bipartisanship—for overcoming the acrimony between Democrats and Republicans. This time, Obama was effectively making a case for social solidarity—the idea that everybody can benefit from programs that provide education or health insurance, and that everybody has an obligation to support them. And he was reminding voters that one party, the Republicans, don’t believe those things.
Obama depressed Michael Grunwald:
[T]he speech felt like a downer, hope and all. Joe Biden made a better case for his boss, and Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama made MUCH better cases. Obama made a persuasive argument that letting Republicans back in power could be a disaster for the country—it’s not a hard argument to make—but he didn’t make four more years of Obama sound like much fun. “Yes, our road is longer, but we’ll travel it together,” he warned us. “We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind.” Sounds like a tough slog.
Jonathan Bernstein thought the convention did its job:
[W]hat conventions can do is remind voters who are probably inclined to vote for a candidate exactly why it is that they would do such a thing. I’m not sure whether the Republicans in Tampa did quite as much of that as they could, and the polling indicates they probably didn’t. I’m pretty confident that the Democrats in Charlotte took much better advantage of their opportunity. They didn’t convince anyone inclined to vote for Romney to switch; you can’t do that. But I suspect that they did an excellent job of rounding up whatever there was to be rounded up.
And Beinart zooms out:
Overall, the Democrats still threw an impressive convention: tough, confident, disciplined. But Obama’s speech was an anticlimax. He’s still the better candidate; I still think he’ll prove that in the debates. But after tonight, I’m a little less sure.