DENVER -- A flag-waving, star-studded, made-for-television spectacular, punctuated with a parade of down-and-out "real people" and comparisons to Abraham Lincoln, set the stage for Barack Obama's historic speech accepting the Democratic party nomination.
"This election has never been about me. This has been about you," he said to cheers from people holding signs with the word "change."
Obama does best on a large stage in a big theater. He made his acceptance speech in the biggest place convention planners could find -- a football stadium.
Obama was specific regarding his agenda, pre-empting -- or trying to -- the Republican criticism that his rhetoric is lofty but empty. He was slashing in attacking the "Bush-McCain" ticket. He seemed to deliberately tone it down some -- maybe two notches -- as he tried to defuse the hot button issues of abortion, guns, gay marriage, immigration and even his own celebrity.
The relentlessly non-ideological program -- preceded by phone banking in the halls of Invesco Field at Mile High stadium with texting during the gala -- highlighted Republicans, military brass and a heart-tugging video about Obama's life. Former Vice President Al Gore vouched for Obama, 47, using the word experience nine times.
After the extravaganza that McCain, 72 today, could never replicate, Obama gets back to the campaign trail he has been on since February 2007.
His fate hinges on about 18 battleground states and Obama will be visiting a batch of them in the next few days. He flies to Pittsburgh today and this weekend tours Ohio, Indiana and Michigan.
On Thursday morning, two central architects of the Obama campaign, strategist David Axelrod and campaign manager David Plouffe (business partners in Axelrod's Chicago-based firm), looked at the 68 days until the election, only 40 days in states where there is heavy early voting.
"The convention exceeded all our goals," said Plouffe.
"We think that all three of these nights so far have fit together and our fourth night tonight is going to be the capstone to what we think is a very, very important week. Our hope and sense is that voters around the country have learned more about who Barack Obama is," he said.
"We are not just unified, our party is electrified," said Plouffe.
Key to the optimism of Plouffe and Axelrod is that they see more growth areas for Obama than for McCain, especially among female and Hispanic voters in the swing states of New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada.
Plouffe said McCain will suffer "a fairly serious intensity gap" compared to Obama and simply will not be able to meet and exceed Obama's voter registration and turnout avalanche.
The conventions are back to back this time, and Republicans meet in Minneapolis/St. Paul on Monday. Axelrod downplayed any "bounce" that Obama will reap from Denver, in part because the storyline moves on as McCain's vice presidential pick is expected at any time. No "wild swings" in polls are expected.
The evening ended with fireworks and confetti and an e-mail from McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds foreshadowing what will come from the Twin Cities next week. Said Bounds, "The fact remains: Barack Obama is still not ready to be President."