Obama appears confident on election eve

November 3, 2008 4:22:25 PM PST
Barack Obama looks and acts like a guy who expects to win. Just look at his election eve schedule. While John McCain rushed around to seven states for last-minute campaigning on Monday, Obama didn't appear before voters until after 11 a.m., the first of just three events for the day.

Before that, he did radio interviews from his hotel room - then he headed out in sweat pants and a ball cap for a 45-minute workout at a gym.

"What is the one thing at this point that has you a little bit concerned?" he was asked by syndicated radio host Russ Parr.

"You know, I feel pretty peaceful, Russ, I gotta say," Obama replied. "Because my attitude is, if we've done everything we can do, then it's up to the people to decide. And the question is going to be who wants it more. And I hope that our supporters want it bad, because I think the country needs it."

Obama's supporters were nothing if not fired up. About 9,000 came to his event in conservative-leaning Jacksonville, while across the state in Tampa, McCain drew less than 1,000. Obama's crowd was decked out in campaign T-shirts that said things like "Obama is my homeboy," and stood in their seats at Veterans Memorial Arena before he got there, dancing to a warm-up soundtrack that included India.Arie's song, "There's Hope."

By now clad in suit and tie, he told them, "I have just one word for you, Florida: 'Tomorrow."'

Actually, he had a lot of words for them - recapping his long campaign and looking to the future - once he quieted their screaming. Sensing victory, the crowd was exuberant.

He talked about starting out "in the depths of winter nearly two years ago on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill."

"I voted for you!" called out an audience member.

"Thank you for the vote," Obama said, trying with a smile to pick up the thread of his speech in front of a crowd that was ready to celebrate.

"Back then we didn't have much money," he said. "We didn't have - all right, you all, let's settle down."

He said that after "21 months of a campaign that's taken us from the rocky coast of Maine to the sunshine of California, we are one day away from changing the United States of America."

The polls gave Obama reason for confidence - he was ahead in every state that Democrat John Kerry won in 2004 and a few that President Bush won as well. He said Sunday that campaigning with his family before massive crowds over the weekend had him thinking he might indeed be headed to victory, but he told the Jacksonville crowd it would be close and they needed to "work like our future depends on it in the next 24 hours, because it does."

Obama delivered the speech knowing some bad news: He found out in his hotel room Monday morning that his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, died late Sunday after a battle with cancer. She had helped rear him, and Obama and his sister issued a statement after he landed in North Carolina Monday afternoon: "She was cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength and humility. She was the person who encouraged and allowed us to take chances." Obama left the campaign for two days last week to spend some time with her in Hawaii.

Obama emotionally told a crowd of tens of thousands gathered in a drizzle at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte Monday evening about his grandmother's death.

"She's gone home," Obama said as the rowdy group grew silent. "And she died peacefully in her sleep with my sister at her side. And so there is great joy as well as tears. I'm not going to talk about it too long because it is hard for me to talk about."

But he said he wanted people to know a little about her - that she lived through the Great Depression and two World Wars, working the second on a bomber assembly line with a baby at home and a husband serving his country. He said she was humble and plain spoken, one of the "quiet heroes that we have all across America" working hard and hoping to see their children and grandchildren thrive. Tears were running down his cheeks as he spoke.

"In just one more day we have the opportunity to honor all those quiet heroes all across America and all across North Carolina," he said. "We can bring change to America to make sure their work and their sacrifice is honored."

He also thanked McCain for his statement of condolence that Obama called "extraordinarily gracious."

Obama's aides said he would continue with his final campaign plans. On election eve, he focused on voters in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia - on offense in Republican red states, energetic but not as aggressive as McCain.

The pace had Obama unable to keep track of where he was for a moment.

"The Republicans are spending a lot of money on ads here in Ohio," he told the Florida crowd, which chided him with a chorus of boos before Obama corrected himself. "Florida! I've been traveling too much."

Obama reminded the crowd that McCain had campaigned in the same arena a few weeks ago and said the "fundamentals of our economy are strong." When the crowd jeered the idea, Obama repeated his favorite line of recent days, "You don't need to boo, you just need to vote."

In his speech, he hit his usual points:
- "We are in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression," and McCain would just give the country more George Bush.

- McCain has served the nation honorable, but "the truth is John McCain just doesn't get it."

- Something must be done about families who have no insurance - or insurance that won't pay.

- "I will end this war."

Meanwhile, the election.

When did it hit home that he might actually win? As far back as the night he won the Iowa Democratic caucuses on Jan. 3, he allowed during the day. Still, he said over and over that he and his supporters must keep working, assume nothing.

Not that he wasn't thinking ahead, too.

What keeps him up at night? he was asked by ABC News Radio's Ann Compton.

"Not actually winning or losing," he said. "It's governing."

On the Net:

McCain: http://www.johnmccain.com
Obama: http://www.barackobama.com