The organizers of our tour sure picked a great battleground state to base us in for the last couple of days of the campaign. We’ve seen Sarah Palin, Joe Biden and this morning we hopped on the bus at 5.30am to see Barack Obama (we skipped McCain).

The crowd at the Obama rally was huge and the mood was upbeat. While Obama trivia played on the big screens above us (Q: What gift did Obama promise his daughters after the election? A: a puppy), we got talking to some young black veterans standing next to us. One of the young guys told us how in 2000 more than 27,000 votes were “lost”, found in dumpsters, or otherwise uncounted in the county.

“Get over it, they told us,” he said.

He, along with about 80% of the crowd, had voted early.

“It’s about unity and bringing people together,” he said. “It’s time for change.”

No one is taking any chances this time around. The crowd was told they could NOT text in their vote, as some people had been informed, and were reminded that if they were standing in line at 7pm they could legally cast their vote.

“Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise,” said the speaker.

Everyone was urged repeatedly to make sure all their friends had voted or would vote tomorrow.

When Obama came to the stage the crowd went nuts. He gave his stump speech covering healthcare, education, ending the war in Iraq and tax cuts (“95% of Americans will get a tax cut, including 98% of plumbers,” he joked). It was essentially the same speech he has given every day for the past two weeks — at one point, when discussing McCain’s negative ad campaign “here in Ohio”, the crowd had to yell back “FLORIDA” — but he is an electrifying and inspiring speaker and it’s an experience I’ll never forget.

Sarah Palin also electrified her crowd. But what a different crowd it was. I saw two African-Americans: one of them was our tour guide. Again, when we told the Republicans we were Australian the first thing they talk about is our gun laws.

“First they take your guns, then they take your vote,” one man warned us.

The undertone of the Palin rally was fear, fear, fear. “They can’t take my guns, my religion or my bulldozer,” said one sign from Jay the contractor. “Obama bin Lyin” read another. As one of my new Labor friends said, it’s clear from the crowd that Palin was chosen solely to fire up the conservative Republican base.

The rally was not designed to swing independent voters to McCain — the song Redneck Woman played as Palin finished. But after seeing her in person I get why conservatives love Palin and I am filled with awe at just how accurately Tina Fey has captured her. I’m off to visit the Orlando Obama campaign tonight before we head off to Washington D.C for election day tomorrow.

Ebony Bennett, media advisor to Greens Leader Bob Brown and unabashed Obama supporter, currently in the United States on a multi-party delegation observing the presidential election.

Peter Fray

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