"Whatever I say here today," he told more than 11,000 supporters on the campus of Norfolk State University, "it's gonna be at best a distant second to the speech you will hear tonight from the star of the Obama family, Michelle Obama."
He likened his midday speech, the fifth in four days on his "Road to Charlotte" campaign swing, to a relay race. "You start off with the fastest person," he said of himself.
But he was quick to say he would be back at the White House tonight with his daughters watching their mom's address the convention - and the nation.
"I'm gonna try not to let them see their daddy cry," he said. "Because when Michelle starts talking, I start getting all misty."
He heads to the convention host city of Charlotte, N.C., tomorrow - but doesn't deliver his acceptance speech until Thursday night.
He again portrayed the focus of his convention speech as laying out "a better path forward." He described the agenda for his second term as a path that will "create good jobs and strengthen our middle class and grow our economy."
His strategy is to portray the Romney-Ryan agenda as backward-looking and a return to policies that Mr. Obama says were in part responsible for the nation's plunge into an economic abyss.
As an example, he said Romney wants to end the tax credit that helps families write off up to $10,000 in college tuition over four years. He said he wants to expand it. His assertion drew cheers from the Norfolk State students in the audience, estimated at 11,600.
This was the president's ninth campaign rally in Virginia since May. He won the state in 2008 and his repeated visits reflect the importance he places on keeping the commonwealth in his win column this year as well.
Virginia has voted solid Republican in presidential races since Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 with two exceptions, It went for LBJ in 1964 and Mr. Obama in 2008.
Mr. Obama has said that if he wins Virginia, he'll win re-election. That assumes that he also wins the other key swing states including Ohio and Iowa - the two states in which he has done even more campaign rallies than Virginia.
The Romney campaign today seized on Mr. Obama's remark in a local TV interview yesterday that he would give himself a grade of "incomplete" for his handling of the economy,. A Romney spokesperson said "incomplete" was not a passing grade and was a reminder of Mr. Obama's first year statement that if he couldn't turn around the economy in three years, he ought be a one-term president.
The Obama campaign dismissed the "incomplete" comment as old news and something the president has repeatedly said before. Campaign press secretary Jen Psaki said the president speaks time and again of the unfinished business he wants to complete in a second term.
Always inclined to use a sports reference as a way of endearing himself to a crowd, the president today kidded his audience at Norfolk State that he was making his appearance despite the fact that back in March, Norfolk State ruined his bracket predictions in the NCAA basketball tournament.
"But I've got no hard feelings," he said jokingly. "Let's just say you owe me one," by which he clearly meant their votes.