* Speech to be held in nearly 74,000-seat stadium

* Democrats aim to focus on the future, not "gauzy" look at the past

* To highlight elements of his regular campaign addresses

By Jeff Mason

Sept 2 (Reuters) - The Greek columns may be banished and the "hope" and "change" signs gone, but President Barack Obama's pitch to American voters at the Democratic National Convention this week will have echoes of his 2008 speech, when he cast himself as a visionary leader in touch with the nation's priorities.

Dogged by a sluggish economy and in a tight race with Republican rival Mitt Romney, Obama will use his time in the spotlight on Thursday to focus on education, tax cuts for those making less than $250,000, energy, immigration and social issues, his advisers indicated.

By talking in more specific terms than Romney did last week, Obama's team hopes to draw a contrast between the two men.

The president's team believes that Romney missed a big chance during the Republican convention to lay out a blueprint for fixing the U.S. economy.

Romney called for fewer government regulations and lower taxes but offered few details in a speech that emphasized his biography and amounted to a rebuttal of months of attacks from Obama's team. The Obama campaign has cast the former private equity executive as an aloof tycoon who is out of touch with middle-class America.

Unlike the former Massachusetts governor, Obama needs no re-introduction to the American public, his campaign advisers say.

So as Romney's campaign casts Obama as a failure in improving the economy, the president - trying to become the first since World War II to be re-elected with an unemployment rate above 8 percent - will argue that he has better ideas to help the country recover from the recession that began under Republican George W. Bush.

"This Thursday night, I will offer you what I believe is a better path forward - a path that grows this economy, creates more good jobs, strengthens the middle class," Obama said in a preview of his remarks at a campaign stop in Iowa. "The good news is, you get to choose which path we take. We can take their path or we can take the path that I'm going to present."

Obama's team aims to fill the nearly 74,000-seat Bank of America stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the president will deliver his speech, and produce a populist feel that contrasts with Romney's convention.


RECAPTURING MOMENTUM

With tens of thousands in the stadium and millions watching on television, the prime time speech will be Obama's most prominent opportunity to date to make his case for re-election.

Advisers and outside analysts said the president will use the opportunity to highlight elements from his campaign speeches: his support of a bailout that saved the U.S. auto industry, ending the war in Iraq, presiding over the death of Osama bin Laden, and championing women's rights.

"Most Americans aren't hearing his stump speech except in little bits and pieces," said Jeff Shesol, a former speechwriter for Bill Clinton who worked on convention speeches in 2000, 2004, and 2008.

"He absolutely shouldn't come up with a brand new message, a brand new take on who he is, where he comes from, what he's been doing and what he plans to do in the next term," Shesol said.

Obama vaulted onto the national stage as an Illinois state senator in 2004, when he gave a well-received address for the Democratic presidential nominee that year, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry.

Four years later in Denver, Obama delivered his own acceptance speech, drawing criticism from Republicans for the setting - a stage adorned with faux Greek columns. Still, Obama basked in the energy of a huge stadium crowd, a symbol of the momentum that helped propel him to victory that year.

A lot of that momentum is gone now.

Unemployment is at 8.3 percent, raising questions about whether Obama can match the huge support he received among minorities and young people four years ago.

Meanwhile, new Republican-backed voter ID laws in several states could undermine turnout for minority and low-income voters in particular, as they are among the groups most likely to have difficulty obtaining the required identification.


MAKING HIS CASE

In Charlotte, Obama will have some significant help in making his case.

His popular wife, Michelle, former president Bill Clinton and others will offer testimonials with forward-looking themes.

Clark Judge, a former speechwriter for Republican President Ronald Reagan, said Obama was unlikely to dwell on the themes of "hope" and "change" because that would require him to defend promises he did not keep from 2008.

"The problem with doing too much of that is he's then got to explain failure, and I'm not sure that they want to get into that," Judge said. He added that he expects Obama to keep on attacking Romney's plan to revamp Social Security and Medicare, popular safety net programs for the elderly.

Obama's advisers watched the Republican convention closely but said they will not change their plans for Charlotte in response.

"In terms of rebutting Republicans or altering what we're going to achieve (this) week, really, there's no impact" on the Democrats' convention strategy, said Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter. "I think the American people are smarter than that."

David Axelrod, Obama's chief campaign strategist, said Romney's speech was filled with "snarky lines" and "gauzy reminiscences of the past." He said Obama's address would be markedly different.

"This speech is going to reflect the thinking of a leader who has great confidence in this country and a ... clear sense of what we need to do to continue to repair the damage that was done by the recession and to reclaim the economic security that many Americans have lost," Axelrod said.

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  • President Barack Obama laughs with his wife Michelle and his daughters Malia and Sasha after his speech to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • President Barack Obama waves with his wife Michelle and his daughters Malia and Sasha after his speech to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

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    Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama wave to the delegates at the conclusion of Presdident Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • President Barack Obama waves with his wife Michelle and his daughters Malia and Sasha after his speech to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • President Barack Obama waves with his wife Michelle and his daughters Malia and Sasha after his speech to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • President Barack Obama waves with his wife Michelle and his daughters Malia and Sasha after his speech to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • President Barack Obama waves with his wife Michelle and his daughters Malia and Sasha after his speech to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama stands with his family, (L-R) First lady Michelle Obama, Sasha Obama, and Malia Obama during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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    US President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Malia (L) and Sasha (C) wave after Obama's acceptance speech at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 6, 2012 on the final day of the Democratic National Convention (DNC). AFP PHOTO Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Barack Obama

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    Supporters listen as US President Barack Obama delivers his acceptance to run for a second term as president at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 6, 2012 on the final day of the Democratic National Convention (DNC). AFP PHOTO Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on stage as he accepts the nomination for president during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

  • Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on stage as he accepts the nomination for president during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: (L-R) Marian Robinson, Malia Obama, Sasha Obama, First lady Michelle Obama and Second lady Dr. Jill Biden watch as Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on stage during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • From left, Michelle Obama's mother Marian, Malia and Sasha Obama, their mother Michelle and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Biden, listen to President Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

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    US President Barack Obama as he delivers his acceptance to run for a second term as president at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 6, 2012 on the final day of the Democratic National Convention (DNC). AFP PHOTO Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GettyImages)

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    The First family welcomes US President Barack Obama as he delivers his acceptance to run for a second term as president at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 6, 2012 on the final day of the Democratic National Convention (DNC). From L-R, first row: Mother-in-law Marian Robinson, daughter Malia, daughter Sasha, First Lady Michelle Obama, Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Mrs.Obama's brother Craig Robinson (3rd R, second row). AFP PHOTO Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GettyImages)

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    US President Barack Obama delivers his acceptance to run for a second term as president at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 6, 2012 on the final day of the Democratic National Convention (DNC). EDITORS NOTE: Image was shot with a tilt-shift lens. AFP PHOTO Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GettyImages)

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama claps on stage as he accepts the nomination for president during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

  • Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on stage to accept the nomination for president during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

  • Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on stage as he accepts the nomination for president during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on stage as he accepts the nomination for president during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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    First Lady Michelle Obama (2nd R) looks over at daughters Malia (L) and Sasha (C) as US President Barack Obama delivers his acceptance to run for a second term as president at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 6, 2012 on the final day of the Democratic National Convention (DNC). AFP PHOTO Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/GettyImages)

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on stage to accept the nomination for president during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on stage to accept the nomination for president during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on stage to accept the nomination for president during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama waves on stage as he accepts the nomination for president during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on stage to accept the nomination for president during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

  • Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on stage to accept the nomination for president during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

  • Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on stage to accept the nomination for president during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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  • Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: (L-R) Malia Obama, Sasha Obama, and First lady Michelle Obama listen as Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on stage during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

  • Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: (L-R) Malia Obama, Sasha Obama, First lady Michelle Obama and Second lady Dr. Jill Biden watch as Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

  • Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: First lady Michelle Obama hughs Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama on stage during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

  • Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama hugs his wife First lady Michelle Obama during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

  • Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama waves on stage during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

  • Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: (L-R) Malia Obama, Sasha Obama, and First lady Michelle Obama watch as Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on stage during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

  • Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama walks on stage to join First lady Michelle Obama during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

  • Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama walks on stage to join First lady Michelle Obama during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

  • Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama walks on stage during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

  • Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: First lady Michelle Obama introduces Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) speaks on stage during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

  • Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic vice presidential candidate, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden waves with his wife Second lady Dr. Jill Biden after speaking on stage during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

  • Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic vice presidential candidate, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden hugs his wife Second lady Dr. Jill Biden after speaking during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

  • Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic vice presidential candidate, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks on stage during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

  • Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic vice presidential candidate, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks on stage during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

  • Vice President Joe Biden waves as he appears on stage to address the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/David Goldman)