He has to talk reassuringly about how America has often faced severe economic challenges in its history, and has not only overcome them but grown more prosperous than before. He has to make the case that the policies of lower taxes, fiscal responsibility and free enterprise have not failed us in the past -- we have failed them, by listening to liberal pols who were peddling dependency, profligacy, overregulation, increasing debt and overtaxation in every nook and cranny of our economy.
At the same time, he has to reassure Americans he has the experience and know-how to lead us out of this mess, that things will get better and that help is on the way.
But the real heavy lifting of this convention will be in telling the unvarnished truth about how Obama and his administration have weakened our economy, hurt the middle class, suffocated job creation and pushed us to the brink of another recession. The Republicans have a lot of economic data to throw at the White House, reports that either aren't reported or given short shrift on the nightly news shows. Among them:
-- The economy is growing progressively weaker under Obama's policies, with its growth rate shrinking this year from 2 percent in the first quarter to a barely breathing 1.5 percent in the second quarter.
-- The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said last week that the economy is weaker than it previously forecast in January.
The CBO said that if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to return to their higher levels at year's end when they are due to expire (and Obama says he will not sign any bill that extends the two top income tax rates), it would cost the economy 2 million jobs and push it over a cliff into a recession.
-- Obama talks a lot about protecting the middle class, but he has flatly failed to do that to any significant degree. A report out last week from Sentier Research, a company headed by two former Census Bureau analysts, says that median household income has fallen sharply since the recession ended three years ago.
Median income is now 7.2 percent below where it was in December 2007 when the recession began. Between June 2009 and June 2012, median household income fell 4.8 percent to $50,964.
-- A Pew Research Center survey last week offered still more evidence of the middle-class decline under Obama: "The Great Recession officially ended three years ago, but most middle-class Americans are still feeling pinched. About six in 10 (62 percent) say they had to reduce household spending in the past year because money was tight, compared with 53 percent who said so in 2008," Pew said.
-- Unemployment rose to 8.3 percent last month, amid indications that it will continue rising in the coming months. Weekly unemployment benefit claims were up this month, revealing little or no progress in the job market. The CBO says it expects the jobless rate to remain at more than 8 percent for the rest of the year, if not beyond.
-- A Labor Department analysis released last Saturday reported that among workers who lost a good-paying job over the last three years, only one in four found another job that paid about the same. The rest could not find jobs, stopped looking and dropped out of the labor force, or took lower-paying or part-time jobs.
-- Obama is going around the country boasting of saving GM with his bailout, but U.S. manufacturing is weakening. Durable goods orders dropped in July for the fourth time in five months.
This is Obama's dismal economic record after nearly four years in office. This is the failed performance upon which he asks voters to give him another four years.
This is the sorry record Romney and the Republican convention must present to the nation this week with this ringing call to arms: that unemployed and underemployed Americans are not going to find full-time jobs again until Barack Obama loses his.