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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.

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