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US President Barack Obama has taken the stage at the Democratic National Convention with Republican White House hopeful Donald Trump firmly in his sights.

He painted an optimistic picture of America's future aimed at giving full-hearted support to Hillary Clinton to help her defeat Republican rival Donald Trump and become the first woman elected US president.

"There has never been a man or woman, not me, not Bill (Clinton) - nobody more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States," Obama said to cheers.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton joins President Barack Obama after his speech at the Democratic National ... LUCY NICHOLSON

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton joins President Barack Obama after his speech at the Democratic National Convention.

Speaking to the Democratic Party convention in Philadelphia, Obama offered an alternative to businessman Trump's vision of the United States as being under siege from illegal immigrants and terrorism and losing its way in the world.

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"I am more optimistic about the future of America than ever before," Obama told cheering delegates at the Wells Fargo Centre.

US President Barack Obama speaks on the third night of the Democratic National Convention. MIKE SEGAR

US President Barack Obama speaks on the third night of the Democratic National Convention.

The Democratic president laid out what he said were a series of advances during his two terms in office, such as recovery from economic recession, the Obamacare healthcare reform and the 2011 killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Nodding to voters' concerns, Obama said he understood frustrations "with political gridlock, worry about racial divisions" and the slow pace of economic growth.

"There are pockets of America that never recovered from factory closures; men who took pride in hard work and providing for their families who now feel forgotten," Obama said.

Tim Kaine emphasised "faith, family and work".

Tim Kaine emphasised "faith, family and work".

Clinton made history on Tuesday when she became the first woman to secure the presidential nomination from a major party. When she formally accepts it on Thursday, she will become the Democratic standard-bearer against Republican nominee Trump in the November 8 election.

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That's my man! Your truth, dignity and grace reminds us what real leadership looks like. I am always proud of our @POTUS. -mo

— The First Lady (@FLOTUS) July 28, 2016

Obama and Clinton were rivals in the hard-fought campaign for the 2008 Democratic nomination. After winning that election, he appointed her his secretary of state.

Biden earlier tweeted out his admiration for Clinton:

Biden earlier tweeted out his admiration for Clinton: "I've seen Hillary in the Senate & the Situation Room" and he calls her "clear-eyed. Steady. Understands working with people. Exactly the leadership we need."

Democrats have buttressed Clinton with a star gathering of current and past party notables at this week's convention. By contrast, many prominent Republicans were absent from the party convention that nominated Trump for the White House last week.

But Trump got a boost in opinion polls from his convention. He had a 2-point lead over Clinton in a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Tuesday, the first time he has been ahead since early May.

Earlier Obama urged voters to elect Hillary Clinton to the White House, appealing to the women, minorities and young people who powered his rise and are now crucial to hers.

Responding to a question about Trump's electoral chances, Barack Obama said KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS

Responding to a question about Trump's electoral chances, Barack Obama said "we don't know" whether the Republican could win the presidency and warned Democrats that "anybody who goes into campaigns not running scared can end up losing."

Obama's address is a moment steeped in symbolism, the passing of the baton from a barrier-breaking president to a candidate trying to make history herself. 

Obama's robust support for Clinton, his political foe-turned-friend, is also driven by deep concern that Trump might win in November and unravel the president's eight years in office.

"The America I know is full of courage and optimism and ingenuity," Obama said.

MORNING REPORT/Radio New Zealand

Alyssa Ketterer of Women's empowerment organisation Live Your Dream dot org discusses the significance of Hilary Clinton's nomination as the first female presidential candidate for a major political party.

BIDEN RALLIES AGAINST TRUMP

Earlier US Vice President Joe Biden took to the stage to chanting supporters to push Clinton's qualifications for being president.

He rounded on Trump, saying "no major nominee in the history of this nation has know less" or been less prepared for office.

Biden earlier tweeted out his admiration for Clinton.

"I've seen Hillary in the Senate & the Situation Room" and he calls her "clear-eyed. Steady. Understands working with people. Exactly the leadership we need."

KAINE ACCEPTS VP NOMINATION

Clinton's running mate Tim Kaine earlier accepted the party's nomination for US Vice President to cheers from the audience.

Talking about his background he emphasised "faith, family and work".

Kaine went on to talk about Clinton's qualities, saying she consistently fought for children and families - while "it wasn't just words it's accomplishments". 

TRUMP AIMS AT DEMOCRATS

Trump fuelled more controversy Wednesday when he encouraged Russia to meddle in the presidential campaign - even as he dismissed suggestions from Obama and other Democrats that Moscow was already acting on his behalf.

On the heels of reports that Russia may have hacked Democratic Party emails, Trump said, "Russia, if you're listening," it would be desirable to see Moscow find the thousands of emails Clinton says she deleted during her years as secretary of state. 

At about the same time, Trump's running mate, Mike Pence, declared there would be "serious consequences" if Russia interfered in US politics.

To Obama and Clinton, Trump's comments only fed their contention that the billionaire businessman is unqualified to be commander in chief. 

Trump has no national security experience and few ties to the norms that have governed US foreign policy under presidents from both parties, including standing by NATO allies threatened by countries including Russia.

"This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent," said Clinton adviser Jake Sullivan.

Wednesday night's Democratic lineup was aimed at emphasising Clinton's own national security credentials, a shift from two nights focused more on re-introducing her to voters as a champion for women's issues, children and families. 

Among those who took the stage was former Pentagon and CIA chief Leon Panetta, who served alongside Clinton in Obama's Cabinet.

Obama, too, was vouching for Clinton's national security experience, recalling their work together during trying times.

"Even in the middle of crisis, she listens to people, and keeps her cool, and treats everybody with respect," he said in speech experts.

"And no matter how daunting the odds, no matter how much people try to knock her down, she never, ever quits."

Obama was closing a night also featuring Clinton's running mate, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine.

In a move aimed at broadening Clinton's appeal, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg - an independent who considered launching a third party bid for president - endorsed the Democratic nominee.

Clinton's campaign believes Trump's unorthodox candidacy will turn off moderate Republicans, particularly women, who worry he's too unpredictable to take the helm in a turbulent world. 

They recognise that Republicans, as well as many Democrats, have questions about Clinton's character but hope to ease those concerns.

Still, the core of Clinton's strategy is putting back together Obama's winning White House coalition. 

In both his campaigns, Obama carried more than 90 per cent of black voters, the overwhelming majority of Hispanics, and more than half of young people and women.

That coalition was vividly on display in the first two nights of the convention in Philadelphia. Women lawmakers were prominently featured, along with young activists, immigrants, and mothers whose black children were victims of gun violence or killed during encounters with law enforcement.

ACTORS PROTEST

Actors have taken a smaller stage in protests by Bernie Sanders supporters.

Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover, Shailene Woodley and Rosario Dawson joined forces as night fell to protest what they consider slights against loyalists of Sanders, a Vermont US senator who competed against Hillary Clinton in the party's presidential primaries before endorsing her.

Sarandon said convention organisers scuttled planned remarks from prominent Sanders surrogate Nina Turner, a former Ohio state senator, at the convention on Tuesday night.

"There's been a lot of difficulty in executing the will of Bernie Sanders' people and surrogates, and this was just a topping for the whole thing because she was ready to go. And she was very, very disappointed," Sarandon said as the other celebrities joined her on a platform.

"This has not gone by lightly, and ... we are upset."

Earlier in the day, half a dozen Sanders delegates spoke to about 300 demonstrators gathered at a plaza near City Hall, about 6km from the convention site, for rallies and speeches.

Erika Onsrud, an at-large delegate from Minnesota, told the people in the crowd they need to continue to fight. Amid cheers, she exhorted them: "Stay awake!"

Other delegates acknowledged that Sanders' loss was disappointing but told the supporters they can create change without the Democratic Party and the mainstream media, contending the media contributed to a rigged election.

- Reuters, AP

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