Obama's Final Swing: North Carolina
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- His voice heavy with emotion as a tear rolled down his cheek, Sen. Barack Obama spoke publicly about his grandmother's death at the beginning of a rally here.
"I'm not going to talk about it too long, because it's hard, you know, to talk about," Obama said. He paused to collect himself, and then continued, "I want everyone to know though a little bit about her."
He described Dunham as "a very humble person, a very plain-spoken person. One of those quiet heroes we have all across America. They're not famous. Their names aren't in the newspaper. But each and every day they work hard. They look after their families. They sacrifice for their children and grandchildren. They aren't seeking the limelight. All they try to do is just do the right thing."
"And in this crowd there are a lot of quiet heroes like that," Obama continued. "That's what American's about. That's what we're fighting for."
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Shortly after his grandmother's death was announced, Sen. Barack Obama visited a local field office here to encourage volunteers -- and perhaps get a lift himself, as the Democratic nominee digested the grim news.
He arrived at the office to cheers from about three dozen volunteers. "This isn't a party here," he joked. "We've got more work to do." He gave a warm hug to Susan Higgins, a local volunteer and fundraiser who had been his editorial assistant at the Harvard Law Review.
Then Obama recognized M.L. Carr, the former Boston Celtics star player and coach. "It's M.L. Carr!" Obama exclaimed. Carr responded, "The next president, the next president."
Obama took three shots with a Nerf basketball at a net clipped to the wall. After he sank the third, he proclaimed it "a ball of hope." He called voters, wishing one a happy birthday, and telling another he was "hustling for votes because we want to win North Carolina."
During one call, volunteer Alverna Bracy, a 76-year-old African-American woman, was so overcome with emotion that she began sobbing and shuddering. Obama put his arm around her and stroked her arm while he finished the call. Later she declared, "This is the best surprise I've ever had since my babies were born."
On another call, Obama could be heard discussing his grandmother in the context of a voter's home health-care problems. He didn't mention her death.
"My grandmother was able to stay in a home all the way until recently," Obama told the caller, turning his back to the cameras. "Because she just had someone who could come in once in a while and that ends up saving a whole lot more money." And, he added, "It's a lot better for yourself and my grandmother."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- One way to consider Obama's closing days is through the numbers. He is not merely barnstorming through Democratic strongholds, seeking to maximize base turnout. He also is working the electoral margins.
Take Duval County, home of Jacksonville, where Obama started the day. Democratic presidential candidates have lost this county for 20 years. But over a quarter of the population is African American.
In 2004, President Bush easily won Prince William County, Va., where Obama will hold his final campaign rally tonight. But the region has been hard-hit by the foreclosure crisis and has droves of the younger, independent-minded voters Obama has sought to win over.
On Saturday night, Obama held a rally in Springfield, Mo. -- a Republican stronghold in a deep purple battleground. But for Democrats, the formula for victory in the Show-Me State must include votes beyond St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia.
And on Sunday night, he stopped in Cincinnati. A Democratic presidential candidate hasn't won Hamilton County since Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1964. But Obama drew 30,000 people at the University of Cincinnati football stadium, a show of organizational strength that could serve him well in a tough part of the state for a Democrat to penetrate.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- This is Sen. Barack Obama's final day on the campaign trail. He claims to be at peace. But his schedule suggests that he's taking no chances.
The first top today is the Sunshine State, land of the disputed recount and Supreme Court intervention that put George W. Bush in the White House eight years ago. The state lives in infamy among Democrats, and they are desperate to claim it. "We've got to win Florida," Obama implored the cheering crowd here.
Obama didn't campaign here during his nomination battle because Florida had moved up its primary date, in violation of party rules. But the late start seems to have cost him little. According to the Miami Herald, heavy South Florida voting has given Democrats an overall 331,000-vote lead in early and absentee ballots.
"We are one day, one moment, from the rebirth of our very nation," local Obama organizer DeJuana Thompson told the Jacksonville crowd. But her emotional plea took a practical turn: "Have you called every person you can think of? Some of you haven't. Push yourself a little big harder."
Later today, Obama heads to North Carolina and Virginia. North Carolina hasn't backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976; Virginia has voted Republican since 1964. But Obama is counting on demographic changes and economic woes to turn these Southern red states blue.
The Democratic nominee reached out to young and minority voters, the two groups that are the core of his expanded map strategy. He spoke about underwear on MTV, and reflected on the end of a 632-day journey to African-American radio host Russ Parr.
"This is like running a marathon," Obama told Parr. "On mile 20 you're tired. Mile 25, you're full of energy."
But from here on, he added, events are more or less out of his control.
"I feel pretty peaceful Russ, I've got to say," Obama continued. "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 the country needs it."
Posted at 7:16 PM ET on Nov 3, 2008
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