Obama's Advisers Before the Big Speech

Weary, tense but confident that they had done their jobs.

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DENVER—Obama's campaign aides seemed tense and weary in the hours before his speech, but expressed confidence that they had done as best they could in Denver, given the list of tasks they faced: to introduce Obama and his family to the country, to get Bill and Hillary Clinton on board in a show of Democratic unity, to highlight the contrast between the two candidates and to convey a compelling message of change.

"It is really very simple. It's not going well for...working-class people or middle-class people in this country," said David Axelrod, Obama's top adviser. "If you are having a hard time paying your bills, if you can't save, if your house, which you once thought was going to be the foundation of your retirement is now under water—if you owe more than your equity—then I think you have to ask yourself is this the direction we want to continue to go, or is there a better way?

"There is a pretty strong case here, and people feel it in their lives every day, and we are going to make it."

The Democrats also wanted to direct a campaign pitch at western voters. For all the media back-and-forth about the wisdom of staging the speech at Mile High Stadium, campaign manager David Plouffe said the risks were worth it, if only because it allowed tens of thousands of Coloradans to directly participate in the historic occasion.

"John McCain cannot win the presidency without carrying this battleground state of Colorado," said Plouffe.

It was an overstatement, but contained an element of truth. The Democrats are expanding the autumn battleground to include western states like Colorado, Montana and Alaska that Republican candidates have taken for granted in recent elections.

Axelrod, sought to dampen expectations that his candidate will get a large post-convention bounce in the polls.

Voters will quickly switch their focus, said Axelrod, to the selection of McCain's running mate; the Republican convention in St. Paul, and the impending landfall of tropical storm Gustav. These events "will mute whatever effect" might occur, said Axelrod. "We're not going to see wild surges."

"Tonight we witness in part what has become of his dream," said King's daughter Bernice. "The acceptance of a Democratic presidential nominee, decided not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character."