Even Keel for Obama in Final Turn to Election
Whatever emotions or anxiety Mr. Obama feels as his candidacy draws to a close, he displays little of it, either in public appearances or private conversations with his close advisers. The air of confidence he exudes, which some critics take as arrogance, grew in part out of the primary, when he worked to avoid perceptions that he was weak or not ready.
But now, he is described by friends as feeling as though he has been thoroughly tested and is prepared to take on the job he has spent 22 months fighting for. Still, it is hard for even those closest to Mr. Obama to fathom what these days are precisely like, even for the unflappable — often inscrutable — senator from Illinois.
His world is awash in powerful, conflicting emotions: the realization, presumably, that he may be about to become president; the huge optimism that he has unleashed, evident in the crowds he is drawing (and something he has told aides worries him a bit, given the expectations set for him); the weighty thinking he is gradually giving to how he would staff a government and deal with a transition in such a difficult time. All of this is taking place as a woman who played a large role in raising him, his grandmother, is approaching death.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A cellphone was pressed to Senator Barack Obama’s ear as he slouched down in a black leather chair in the front cabin of his campaign airplane. He leaned away from the headrest, where his name is spelled out in blue stitching.
A few miles away, thousands of people streamed into JFK Stadium at Parkview High School on Saturday for a late-night rally. But Mr. Obama stayed on his chartered Boeing 757 as he spoke by conference call to thousands of his team leaders around the country, the volunteers who form the ranks of an army that he hopes will give him an edge in the waning hours of the presidential race.
As he pressed his right hand to his forehead, his sober expression seemed at odds with the confident gleam in the eyes of his advisers. While Mr. Obama smiles less than he once did, gauging his mood simply by looking at him is risky: his baseline cool temperament has seldom spiked along the rocky points of his journey.
In a campaign where he has slogged through more competitive election days than any recent nominee, only one more lies ahead. And it is the long path of the Democratic primary, which lurched from the ups of Iowa to the downs of Ohio, that his friends say provided Mr. Obama with a steady equilibrium as he enters this final turn in the race for the White House.