Friday, August 29, 2008

Obama Ready For A Tough Battle

Barack Obama has spoken to the Democratic national convention in Denver, to accept the party's nomination to be its candidate for president of the US. He delivered the speech not in the indoor arena where the rest of the convention has taken place, but in the nearby Mile High Stadium, home of the Denver Broncos, in front of 70,000 cheering supporters.

That must have seemed like a good idea at the time. But it was organised before Mr Obama's recent trip to Europe, when he spoke to an audience of 200,000 in Germany. A lot of people in America weren't too impressed when they saw the images of that appearance, believing the young senator was acting as if he'd already won the presidency. Democratic TV bosses made sure that during last night's speech, only a few shots of the whole crowd made it onto the screens, instead mixing Mr Obama's words with close-up images of the party faithful.

As for what Mr Obama actually had to say - he certainly tried to tone down the soaring rhetoric of some of his previous speeches. Instead there was plenty on the economy, and a significant section attacking his Republican opponent John McCain on foreign policy, arguably Mr McCain's greatest perceived strength. The tough language at least proves Mr Obama knows he's in for a tough battle if he's to get to the White House.

And with a poll on Tuesday putting Mr McCain two points ahead (he'd been behind, sometimes well behind, all summer long), Barack Obama certainly has it tough. Contrary to what most people in Europe and around the world seem to believe, he's currently only second favourite to win the election. And regardless of how good his speech last night was, there won't be much time for Americans to really pick over it.

Within hours, John McCain (72 today) will be back on top of the news as he announces his choice of running mate. Then all next week, the Republicans will hold their convention in the twin cities of Minnesota. Expect them to use the advantage of batting second to lay into Mr Obama at every opportunity, and expect John McCain to highlight his own life story, a story even more remarkable than the rags-to-riches tale offered by his opponent last night. After all that, expect John McCain to be more than just two points ahead in the polls. Seventy thousand people in Denver may have treated Barack Obama as the next president, but he still needs to convince plenty more if it's actually going to happen.

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