By Mick Brown in Colorado
12:08AM GMT 04 Nov 2008
A couple of hours before Barack Obama was due to speak in the heart of the "historic quarter" of the town of Pueblo, Colorado, on Saturday, in the unseasonable warmth and sunshine, I took a walk down Main Street. Secret Service agents in dark suits and sinister sunglasses, heads cocked to the electronic babble from their plastic earpieces, were sweeping the press and VIP area, holding back the crowd of television crews and reporters behind yellow tape. Looking across to where a stage had been set up at an intersection, adjacent to an antiques store and an attorney's office, one could see the heavily armed special troopers on the roofs of the neighbouring buildings, scanning the surrounding vista through high-powered binoculars.
There were three more days to go before election day, and, here, in a key electoral battleground, the wind of rising fervour – and the formidable grassroots campaign machine – that had carried Obama to the doorstep of the White House, had brought thousands of people on to the streets of downtown Pueblo, brandishing posters, clad in Obama caps and T-shirts and festooned with badges. Anticipation and excitement thrummed in the air. (A testament to the efficiency of Obama's organisation: that morning I had received an email inviting me to contribute to his campaign and enter a draw to join him in Chicago on election night, signed, with a degree of easy familiarity that I had no idea we shared, "Barack''.)
At the end of the street, on the side of the handsome Mission-style Union Depot building, hung a huge portrait of Obama, seemingly gazing over the town to the blue haze of the Rocky Mountains far beyond, emblazoned with a single word – Hope. Even by the habitually feverish standards of American politics, there is something extraordinary and, to British sensibilities, a little unsettling about the messianic fervour that has carried Barack Obama to the brink of the presidency.
On the pavement a group of young people – college students, they said, first-time voters, the kind of people that Obama has targeted – were gathering, armed with flyers to hand to the crowd. What, I wondered, did they see in Barack Obama? "He's passionate. Inspiring. Liberating," one girl said, then paused. "I would take a bullet for him.''
And what if Obama were not elected?
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