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The clock counts down

  • Gavin Hewitt
  • 4 Nov 08, 07:58 PM GMT

Chicago, Illinois:The Obama team let their emotions show at the last campaign stop in Virginia last night. When Barack Obama came on stage he seemed taken aback by the size of the crowd.

"Goodness gracious," he said. "wow." As he moved towards the Virginia governor and
the would-be senator who had introduced him, he wanted to dance up the final two steps but the energy deserted him.

The candidate himself could not quite believe that 100,000 people were standing in the Virginia night past eleven o'clock.

Before his speech finished I spoke to Robert Gibbs, his Director of Communications and one of the three aides closest to Obama..The mood was high. They think they have done enough.

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"It was up to the people now," he told me. "There were days," he said, "when the mountains seemed too steep." But he was confident although "full of anxieties".

The anxieties were that people would not turn out in the numbers necessary; that some of John McCain's attacks had left their mark. And then there is the nagging concern about race, that on voting day some people might resist voting for a black president.

These are all unknowns and they make the front-runner's team nervous. David Axelrod, the campaign's chief strategist, would only say he was "cautious".

We sensed the lightness of mood when Barack Obama voted today. Afterwards at the airport on his way to Indiana he said he noticed that his wife Michelle had spent some time in the voting booth as if making up her mind who to chose.

Having spent some time visiting his campaign workers in Indiana Barack Obama is going to throw some hoops, play some basketball. It's an election night tradition with him. After that he will have dinner with his family then he's going to travel to the Hyatt hotel in Chicago to watch the results come in with his closest aides.

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Only after the polls close will he travel to Grant Park to make a statement.

Chicago is bathed in sunshine. The temperature is in the seventies. The city is one the edge of excitement. Some businesses are closing early. 70,000 tickets have been issued for the main event but thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, will drift to the lakeside park to be there at what they hope will be a moment of history.

Barack Obama will speak between two large bullet-proof screens. It will either be a concession that would be unbearable to his supporters or it will be an acceptance that his message of change has persuaded the voters.

In that event America will be a changed country, offering a very different face to the world.

Comments

  • 1. At 8:24pm on 04 Nov 2008, Matt wrote:

    Obama might be too good to be true, but the notion of Palin as possibly being President is just unacceptable. And that is how we have to look at it.

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  • 2. At 8:24pm on 04 Nov 2008, turkishdan wrote:

    Is Barack Obama really going to New York tonight?!
    You might want to redirect that link to the Bryant Park, Chicago website!

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  • 3. At 8:33pm on 04 Nov 2008, hyperlexis wrote:

    Sweetie, it's not "Bryant Park" (no such place in Chicago) -- it's "Grant Park," named after General Grant, where the election rally will be held, and, hopefully in a few years, the Olympics....

    I live in Chicago and am wondering if I should go down there. It will be an absolute madhouse I'm sure. But boy what a celebration!

    All Americans are so proud of our country today. I voted early but I had to wait almost an hour to do so, which for my area is unheard of. Some people in other states had been reported waiting five or more hours. This has been the most well-attended election I think, of my entire life.

    I'd rather Hillary Clinton be up there, but if the Democrats can win tonight, I will be most exceedingly happy.

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  • 4. At 8:35pm on 04 Nov 2008, declanpratt wrote:

    I know Barack Obama is a breath of fresh air but unless he's also Superman I doubt he'll be at Bryant Park tonight. Isn't he going to be in Chicago at Grant Park? Maybe you've been spending too much time reading the fashion pages Gavin?

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  • 5. At 8:36pm on 04 Nov 2008, DerryNewBoy wrote:

    I really hope for your sake you're not waiting in Bryant Park for this momentous occasion. Manhattan will not be the place for reporters tonight.

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  • 6. At 8:37pm on 04 Nov 2008, ryanmalarky wrote:

    Grant Park
    (Bryant is in NYC)

    "Only after the polls close will he travel to Bryant Park to make a statement."

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  • 7. At 8:37pm on 04 Nov 2008, Chicagogirl wrote:

    Obama's speech will be in Grant Park. Bryant Park is in New York.

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  • 8. At 8:39pm on 04 Nov 2008, translucentlavender wrote:

    One small correction to the main article - surely it is Grant Park in Chicago and not Bryant Park in NYC where Obama will make his statement?

    Thanks for a fascinating and informative blog - it has been my pleasure to read it over the past weeks.

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  • 9. At 8:43pm on 04 Nov 2008, naburgess wrote:

    Just in case people were getting excited about the prospect of Obama speaking in New York, he will actually be addressing people in Grant Park, Chicago, and not, as it is stated, Bryant Park, which is in New York.

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  • 10. At 8:45pm on 04 Nov 2008, robininamerica wrote:

    Given the need to bring this great country together, to overcome the polarization of the Bush years, I believe that it will take an exceptional and inspiring leader. To my mind Barak Obama is the man best placed to do this.

    What is most surprising to me is given the open hostility towards Bush and the republican administration, the disequilibrium in the campaign finances and palpable charisma of Barak Obama, why is this race so close?

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  • 11. At 8:47pm on 04 Nov 2008, elwysse wrote:

    He needs bullet-proof screens and he isn't even president yet. I fear for him.

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  • 12. At 8:50pm on 04 Nov 2008, mialoree wrote:

    His speech is not in Bryant Park. That is in New York City.

    (Most of) Chicago is honored and excited to hold his rally on the lakefront of our city, in Grant Park.

    I work in an office building overlooking Grant Park. I get out of work two hours early to avoid traffic jams and congestion. I can see people lining up (and they have been for hours already), hear cars honking to celebrate, and hear them cheering.

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  • 13. At 9:40pm on 04 Nov 2008, SunshinePlus wrote:

    I pray that the American voters can discern the genuine quality and genius in this man to elevate him to the highest office in the land where his compassion and high intellect will raise up our morally and financially corrupt nation to the highest standards we once commanded. He is a true gift to our country and his family values will be welcome in the White House as he oversees the vast improvements that are needed in our domestic life. We have a lot of work to do here at home and he is the man to get the job done for the benefit of all the people.

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  • 14. At 10:32pm on 04 Nov 2008, Richard Drake wrote:

    #1: "Obama might be too good to be true, but the notion of Palin as possibly being President is just unacceptable."

    No, clearly it is racism that is just unacceptable. Sexism, on the other hand, remains a breeze.

    That's I fear "how we have to look at it". I don't for a moment buy the idea that Palin would have attracted the same sort of disparaging comments if she'd been a man. Of course, if she'd been a black man, with vague but simplistic left-leaning rhetoric, she would have been really safe.

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  • 15. At 10:56pm on 04 Nov 2008, Seetay wrote:

    #1 I sincerely hope that the votes cast have been votes FOR Barack Obama rather than votes AGAINST Sarah Palin.

    I also suspect that Michelle Obama spent a fair bit of time in that polling booth considering how her life as wife and mother might be about to change. She was probably praying for strength!

    Whatever the outcome, the Obamas have been inspirational and deserve all credit for the dignified way in which they have run this campaign......but.....I do so hope they win!!

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  • 16. At 11:46pm on 04 Nov 2008, ali_mora wrote:

    "America will be a changed country, offering a very different face to the world."

    Give me a break. I'm glad that with this election ending, so will the tireless media sensationalism. What's the change everyone's clammering about? When I see Obama, I see a candidate who caved on offshore drilling, voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act, supports the FISA Act that grants immunity to wiretapping telecommunication companies, voted for the Secure Fence Act, still puts Darfur on the back burner, caved on his support in the Washington DC handgun ban, caved on troop withdrawal deadlines, supported the bailout, and won't implement a true single-payer healthcare system. Guess who has the same views on every one of these issues? McCain.

    As an American voter, I'm implementing our underrated ability to vote outside the two major parties. Call me indifferent to these two and instead eager for Nader/Gonzalez. Now THAT will be real change.

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  • 17. At 00:28am on 05 Nov 2008, enjoi88 wrote:

    Wow I cant believe how scared I am

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  • 18. At 01:24am on 05 Nov 2008, OldSouth wrote:

    #14. Exactly on point.

    Except you left out the part that she's pretty, successful, happily married, doesn't believe in the glass ceiling, and unconcerned about the New York Time's (a failing business, by the way) opinion of her. And she's only in her mid-40's.

    That really, really drives leftists up the wall!

    (And that's what drove so many women to the polls to vote for her.)

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  • 19. At 02:19am on 05 Nov 2008, enjoi88 wrote:

    Its true some of the attacks directed at her would not be accepted if done to Obama but you also cant deny she started digging a hole thru the Couric interview - it wasnt a 'gotcha interview' - and she didnt stop digging.

    Obama kept improving as he went along and tried to maintain a dignified campaign.

    Come on! what is real and unreal America?

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  • 20. At 02:36am on 05 Nov 2008, beamingup wrote:

    "And then there is the nagging concern about race, that on voting day some people might resist voting for a black president." Your use of the word 'resist' understates the sentiment I've encountered here in Alabama. In the northern region of this state where evangelical 'saved' Christians dominate the culture and politics, pure unmitigated hatred, based solely on the basis of race, is openly expressed. The excitement of Mr. Obama's candidacy and the win I project he will have, have been muted by the many expressions of derision and even disgust toward the man BECAUSE he is black. That he managed to get this far, despite the racism that lies just under the surface of so many university educated, self-proclaimed 'good Christian' people, speaks all the more for Mr. Obama's skills in statesmanship and the hard, hard work and determination of thousands of his supporters. We (the people of the US) may need Mr. Obama more than these people understand. The strengths he brings to the office provide hope that he may just be the man to change, or at least soften, the negative feelings toward people of color in this country.

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  • 21. At 03:19am on 05 Nov 2008, Stephen Derry wrote:

    If Palin had one tenth of Obama's knowledge, judgement and eloquence she would be a serious Presidential contender.

    With a bit of coaching she may get there.

    She needs to find a way to appeal to the people she presently doesn't consider to be real Americans. One way to do this would be to stop looking at America as "us and them."

    In fact that is advice that could be thrown to a lot of Republicans, and a good many Democrats too.

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  • 22. At 11:25am on 05 Nov 2008, Richard Drake wrote:

    Well, congratulations USA on your open electoral system and its reward for someone whom any of us must admit proved a remarkable campaigner, given the formidable Hillary Clinton initially in the driving seat. I'm English and even I was praying for the new first family last night - and yes, those three women are stars who without question will change the image of America across the world. Just don't forget the power of prayer. You are going to need it - just the anger of the new Russian president expressed towards America on television in the last few hours shows that. The global financial crisis on its own requires wisdom of a kind not required for generations from the new President. Mr Obama needs your prayers. Don't fail him or your country in that.

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  • 23. At 12:40pm on 05 Nov 2008, Mark_WE wrote:

    rdrake98 wrote:
    #1: "Obama might be too good to be true, but the notion of Palin as possibly being President is just unacceptable."

    No, clearly it is racism that is just unacceptable. Sexism, on the other hand, remains a breeze.


    You say that but the race for the Dem nomination was a close race and it wasn't till after the last state voted that Clinton gave up the race.

    The reason people are concerned about Palin is because of how she comes across. Obama maybe inexperienced but he comes across as educated, intelligent and genuine.

    Palin comes across as a genuine person (not that I agree with all her views) but little more then that. She doesn't come across as intelligent and some of her interviews were cringeworthy.

    Palin would be great as a character in a Disney family movie (the small town mom who becomes Vice President would be a very heartwarming family film) but there is a difference between fantasy and reality.

    However, I do think that if Palin had the right backing behind her and spent the next 4/8 years strengthening her areas of weakness she would be a much stronger contender.

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  • 24. At 12:41pm on 05 Nov 2008, kbwong wrote:

    @#15

    Seetay, I personally voted against Sarah Palin. It was just icing on the cake that I thought that Obama was the way to go anyway, but if Obama had picked someone like Sarah Palin (who if she'd been a man or black, I'd still have found absolutely appalling as a possibility for sitting in the Oval Office), I wouldn't have voted for him.

    It would have shown me that he made decisions I couldn't possibly condone. We've had enough of racist, gun-toting, hate-driven people in office.

    I'm so relieved this morning. It's going to be very interesting to see if change does in fact happen or if the normal political atmosphere will come down like a fog once more...

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  • 25. At 12:46pm on 05 Nov 2008, kbwong wrote:

    Oh, and also at #15:

    Seetay, her life has already changed drastically, admittedly by her choice -- she's pretty much given up most of her career track to help Obama's. At one point, both of them have said they remember arguments where she would say, "it's always you, isn't it?"

    Obviously they've come to some agreement between the two of them that works for them. Good on them!

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  • 26. At 5:40pm on 05 Nov 2008, HanChak wrote:

    When I voted, I felt such a release of tension and nervous energy -- the day before had been a day of spontaneous tears. I was so wound up, but as I walked out of the polls I was suddenly very relaxed, and almost lethargic.

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