Nervous final days

  • Gavin Hewitt
  • 31 Oct 08, 11:53 PM GMT

Highland, Indiana: Have you ever spoken to someone trying to suppress excitement? They tend to struggle. They do their best to deny it but it seeps through. And so it is with Barack Obama's inner circle. His campaign manager David Plouffe said today: "We're happy to be where we are now." At one piece of polling news he used the word "thrilled".

Barack Obama walks with his daughter Sasha in Chicago at Halloween

One sign of that optimism: they're going to spend some money this weekend on TV ads in of all places Arizona - John McCain's home state. This may be a bit of mischief, tweaking your opponent's tail but there is not much room for mischief four days from polling. The Obama team says even in Arizona they see the race tightening in their favour.

Another reason for their confidence is early voting. They reckon that come 4th November, 40% of Americans will have voted early. What the Obama analysts are seeing is a high number of first-time voters and independents going to the polls and they are hopeful that they will back Obama. In the past the Republicans have done better at early voting. Not this time. In many states its registered Democrats who have voted early. That enthusiasm encourages the campaign. They are noticing, too, that African Americans are voting in large numbers. Hispanics too. That, in their view, is one of the stories of the election: the number of Hispanics breaking for Obama.

This final weekend is all about organisation. Barack Obama will not announce any new themes. His job now is to inspire, to get the vote out. Across the country the Democrats say they will have over a million volunteers active. They are more confident of their polling data than in the past. They are able to target those who have not voted and get them to the polling stations. The Democrats' organisation is far superior to four years ago. One insider told me they had learnt from the Republicans and are determined not to be out-organised.

Chicago skyline

Barack Obama always counsels against compaceny. "Power never concedes," he likes to say.

The Obama team knows that John McCain's aides are saying the "race is tightening". They don't see it. There are some anxieties about Ohio and they believe Florida will, once again, be tight. They know, too, that there are undecideds out there. That is why the campaign was so delighted that 33 million Americans watched Obama's slick commercial. One TV executive said it was simply "stunning" that so many people had sat through a political ad.

So in these final days we sense the expectation in the Obama camp but on display, too, are the nerves of the front-runner. They want the election now rather than on Tuesday. So in the last frenetic push Barack Obama will swing through Nevada and Colorado, Virginia, Florida, Ohio and North Carolinia before heading back to Chicago.


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