Michelle Obama flew in today and held a rally at the College of South Nevada. The accompanying photo shows her at the event. Her speech went down really well with the enthusiastic audience of around five hundred, who stood in the glorious sunshine to chant ‘Yes We Can!’ and show their appreciation of Michelle’s part in the campaign.
The speech was more of an emotional testimonial than a detailed outline of policy though she did hammer home central messages about education, the economy, jobs and the Iraq war. Michelle seemed choked at times when she told stories of people she’d met and the highs and lows experienced since the start of the campaign.
‘The campaign has been fun’ she said, ‘and the rallies have been amazing, but the only day that counts is tomorrow.’ Her pride in her husband was clear and she spoke touchingly about what the impact had been on the Obamas as a family. I was impressed with how at ease she was with the crowd. She appeared to speak unscripted though I’m sure she has given similar speeches many times. She dealt ably with the frequent enthusiastic shouts from the crowd and delighted people with an extended rope line walk when she came off stage. There were at least seven television cameras covering the event, I counted fourteen other journalists scribbling in the press pen and she apparently gave a number of one-to-one interviews when she came off stage.
This was a slick event which touched the spot with the assembled activists. I’ve been involved in the planning and delivery of a number of similar events in the UK with the Labour Party, though nothing on this scale would ever have been staged for the leader’s wife. In US politics it seems that a candidate’s family plays a crucial part in the campaign’s ultimate success.
Michelle Obama’s visit was one of three high profile ones taking place today. Sarah Palin visited Reno in the north of the state and Senator McCain will fly in this evening at the end of a grueling day of visits to swing states. Nevada is a small state with only five electoral college votes, but it is crucially important to both campaigns. For Obama it represents a fail safe. Pollsters believe he already has 264 solid blue state votes. Nevada’s 5 would bring him to 269, which is the number representing an electoral college tie. In the event of a tie, the House of Representatives must vote to decide the winner and because the Democrats control the House, this means that a win in Nevada would mean the Democrats taking the presidency. McCain is obviously keen to stop this happening and his campaign is therefore fighting hard to keep it for themselves. The last time that Nevada voted Democrat in a presidential election was for Bill Clinton in 1996. As an added indication of how important this fight is, the Obama campaign has over three thousand lawyers in Nevada alone ready to get involved if there is any repeat of the 2000 election.
Our committee room in north Vegas is well prepared for tomorrow. We’ll be starting at 5.30am when we will hang ‘don’t forget to vote’ signs (very quietly!) on the front doors of people we hope will vote for Obama. Following that after a quick breakfast we’ll be knocking on doors to encourage people to get to the polls as early as possible as there is concern that later in the day the lines will be very long and people may decide it’s not worth the wait.
Polls close in Nevada at 7pm tomorrow. The optimistic voices here think that if the Republican turnout is down on those who voted in 2004 and the Democrat vote is dramatically up (many think this is likely) then we should know the outcome by 9pm west coast time. A large party on Vegas’s Strip is planned and I’ve got my fingers crossed that one of the hardest working and most committed Obama supporters will make an appearance. If she does, the question I have for Obama Girl is, does she hope for a place in the new administration?