In Fla., Obama Urges Supporters To Vote Early

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has campaigned in Sarasota, Fla., before heading to the swing states of Virginia and Missouri. Obama's campaign is hoping to match the massive crowds at his campaign events with over-the-top excitement from his supporters.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Barack Obama started out his day in Florida. Then he was off to Virginia. And he has a late evening event in the college town of Columbia, Missouri. Senator Obama is not only trying to energize his supporters before Election Day, but encourage them to cast their ballots early. NPR's Don Gonyea filed this report from Sarasota, Florida.

DON GONYEA: It's like that line from the movie "Spinal Tap." The Obama campaign has turned it "up to eleven" this week.

(Soundbite of Democratic campaign rally, Florida)

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Democratic Presidential Candidate): How's everybody doing, Florida?

(Soundbite of crowd ovation)

GONYEA: But if Obama's crowds in recent weeks have been over-the-top - 100,000 in St. Louis, that many more in Denver, 75,000 in Kansas City, 45,000 in Albuquerque - the campaign is hoping to match that with equally over-the-top excitement from his supporters. Here's the senator in Sarasota this morning in Florida's Gulf Coast.

(Soundbite of Democratic campaign rally, Sarasota, Florida)

Senator OBAMA: And if you will stand with me, if you'll work with me, if you'll vote early, if you will talk to your friends and neighbors and co-workers, if we don't let up, then I promise you we will win Florida, and we will win this general election.

(Soundbite of crowd ovation)

GONYEA: Wander into the crowd at any Obama event, and you hear lots of confidence. Sixty-three-year-old Joan Joseph(ph) is a longtime Democratic activist who sat just off the main floor of a hockey arena in Sunrise, Florida, where Obama spoke last night.

Ms. JOAN JOSEPH (Democratic Activist): It's absolutely breathtaking. This entire campaign has been something like we've never experienced before in our entire life. It's been one thrill after another.

GONYEA: But she's also quick to talk about her anxiety. After all, there are still five more days. Anxiety, too, that this is Florida, home of the 2000 vote, the recount.

Ms. JOSEPH: We've lived here the last two presidential elections here in Florida, and the victory parties that we started out going to didn't quite turn out the way we hoped. We're hoping this time it does.

GONYEA: Seated two sections over was 57-year-old Joan Ben(ph) who was born in Guyana, but who has been a U.S. citizen for 30 years. As an African-American, she said she always hoped she'd see what she's seeing now. She just didn't think it was possible so soon. She thinks an Obama presidency would restore America's global reputation.

Ms. JOAN BEN: The world would look at us in a different way and a different level. I think it's good for our children and my grandchildren to see a black president.

GONYEA: And then there's Leila Rolfe(ph).

Ms. LEILA ROLFE (Retired Nurse): I am an Obama girl, 100 percent.

GONYEA: She's also a retired nurse and an independent voter.

Ms. ROLFE: I know how Republican Florida is. But I felt that if he could get his message out and if people listen to him, that he could turn any state, including Florida.

GONYEA: Rolfe thinks people are listening in Florida, and she's hopeful that Obama could take this state. But even if Florida goes Republican again, she thinks the enthusiasm of Obama supporters will give him victory nationally, leaving her to predict that she has just seen a speech by the next president elect. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Sarasota.

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