Cincinnati, Ohio – Barack Obama looked less like a candidate running the home stretch and more like a winner taking a victory lap at campaign stops in Columbus and Cincinnati Sunday. He appeared at ease, laughing at his own jokes and projecting confidence. At both events, Obama supporters grinned, high-fived, and celebrated what many feel is a certain Obama victory on Nov. 4. One supporter, a black man in his early 20s, couldn’t contain his enthusiasm. As he filed onto the field at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium, he leapt into the air and cried, “This is the happiest day of my life.”
The mood was no less jubilant at the rally in Columbus. Cornal Garnett Henning Sr., a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, opened the rally with a prayer in which he thanked God for “a Moses and a Martin called Barack Obama.” Henning also stoked fears among Ohio Democrats that Republicans might try to steal the election, as some believe they did four years ago. He prayed that “those who cast that sacred vote will not be denied their full value as citizens of this great country.”
Fighting complacency was a major theme of each speaker. Columbus mayor Michael Coleman implored the crowd of 60,000 to vote, telling them that the Republicans would do “anything and everything to prevent us from voting.” Coleman said, “Complacency is the enemy of victory.”
Ohio Governor Ted Strickland urged the crowd to take advantage of the state’s liberal early-voting policies, saying, “If enough of you vote, this thing could be wrapped up by the time the polls open on November the fourth.”
Obama opened his speech with similar entreaties, but his confidence was clear. “Ohio, I have just two words for you,” he said. “Two days.” The crowd roared in approval. “We are two days away from changing America, and its going to start right here in the great state of Ohio.”
In between the rallies in Columbus and Cincinnati, Obama jetted to Cleveland for a rally with aging rocker Bruce Springsteen in front of 80,000. Obama was reportedly even more self-assured at that rally. “I’ve got to tell you, the last couple of days I’ve just been feeling good,” he said, “You start to think we might be able to win an election on Nov. 4.”
Polls show that his optimism is somewhat justified. The Columbus Dispatch published the results of its final pre-election poll Sunday morning, and it had Obama up by six points. The Dispatch noted that no candidate who trailed in its final poll had won Ohio in the modern era. Obama also leads in other polls — the Real Clear Politics average has him winning Ohio by 4.6 points — but not in all of them. The latest Mason-Dixon poll has McCain winning Ohio by two.
In addition to shoring up his own support, Obama had another mission on Sunday: Two of the country’s closest House races are in Columbus and Cincinnati, and high turnout for Obama would help Democratic challengers in both. In Columbus, Republican Rep. Deborah Pryce is retiring. Republican state senator and Iraq veteran Steve Stivers is running for her seat against Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy. Kilroy didn’t speak at Sunday’s rally in Columbus, but she got a plug from nearly everyone who did.