Manassas, Virginia is in the “real” America and yet, it was there that Obama held his final rally, turning out a crowd estimated at 90,000.
In some ways it was a sombre affair. Earlier that day, Madelyn Dunham, Obama’s grandmother, had passed away. Obama eulogised her in North Carolina.
“She was someone who was a very humble person and a very quiet person, she was one of those quiet heroes that we have all across America,” Obama said at Charlotte rally, tears rolling down his face.
“In this crowd there are a lot of quiet heroes like that, mothers and fathers and grandparents who have worked hard and sacrificed all their lives and the satisfaction that they get is seeing that their children or maybe their grandchildren or great grandchildren live a better life than they did. That’s what America is about. That’s what we’re fighting for.”
Obama hardly mentioned his loss in Virginia. The pain was his, not ours. But it settled heavily on the evening. Obama was subdued. Tired. He said what needed to be said. He launched his attacks and unleashed his applause lines and ran through the central message of the speech, which was and always has been: change.
“The change we seek will not just come from government alone, it’s going to have to come from each of us,” Obama told the crowd of over 90,000. “Each of us has a role to play.”
“I asked you to believe not just in my ability to bring about change, but in yours,” he said. “In this campaign I have had the privilege to witness what is best in America.”
However the hot coil of emotion that might have elevated his final speech was absent. It was just a speech but that was all that was required. The time for speeches is over. For two years, this election has been about the candidates. What they said and what they thought. What they did and how they looked. But the process has now barrelled beyond them.
It is now about the voters. What they have heard and what they have concluded. Whether they have formed a preference and whether they care enough to vote. This rally was not about the spent figure who stood on the stage, but the 90,000 who had left the quiet warmth of their homes to hear him speak. Obama might have been subdued, but the supporters’ very presence was evidence of their excitement. And at this point, it is their excitement, not his, that matters.