CLEVELAND -- Barack Obama, whose skills as a charismatic orator launched him on a path likely to make him president-elect Tuesday night, wound up Sunday with serial stemwinders in the battleground state of Ohio.
"We are two days away from bringing change to America," Obama said here at an outdoor downtown rally where a crowd of 80,000 was warmed up by a Bruce Springsteen concert.
Wife Michelle and daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, briefly joined Springsteen and his family on stage.
Some 60,000 people showed up in front of the Ohio statehouse in Columbus and 27,000 at the University of Cincinnati.
Democrats have been smarting over Ohio since John Kerry lost to George Bush in 2004 by 118,601 votes in a contest where Democrats suspected, but could not prove, hanky panky.
Several congressional Democrats challenged the counting of Ohio's 20 electoral votes, with the charge led by the most liberal lawmakers and the Congressional Black Caucus -- many of the disputed areas in Ohio were in African-American precincts.
On Jan. 6, 2005, Obama, as the newly sworn-in junior senator from Illinois and the only African American in the Senate, was faced with the decision of whether to cast his very first Senate vote for the Ohio measure.
His maiden speech from the Senate floor was about how "there are different elections for different parts of the country," with differences turning on "wealth and race."
The Senate rejected the measure 74-1, with Obama voting with the majority and disappointing some. It was the first signal that Obama, despite his progressive Hyde Park roots, was going to chart a different course for himself in the Senate.
Now John McCain and Obama are slugging it out in Ohio. As it started to rain in downtown Cleveland, Obama hit all the key points of his finely honed closing argument:
• • Portraying McCain as a third term of the Bush-Cheney White House. "He hasn't been a maverick, he's been a sidekick," Obama said here.
• • Defending his tax plans. McCain and Sarah Palin have been pounding away at Obama on taxes, accusing him of being a socialist wanting to redistribute wealth.
Obama pledges that families making less than $250,000 will not pay "a dime" more in taxes, which could include money from two-income households.
At rallies, he asks for a show of hands from individuals making less than $250,000 a year to raise hands; always, most do.
Says Obama, "Don't be hoodwinked, don't be bamboozled, don't fall for the okey-doke no matter what John McCain may say."
• • Ending the war in Iraq. The war, once a centerpiece, has been overwhelmed by the nation's economic meltdown.
On Monday, Obama hits Jacksonville, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C., with the last rally of the campaign in Manassas, Va.
On Election Day, after voting at Shoesmith Elementary School near his Kenwood home, Obama heads to Indianapolis in another battleground state, for the very last stop in the campaign.