If Barack Obama was hoping to send a message that he's got a shot at winning Missouri, he succeeded. Saturday night he was in Kansas City and drew some 75,000 people to Liberty Memorial Park — but that wasn't the biggest rally Obama held in Missouri that day. At noon in St. Louis, 100,000 people came out.
The audience stretched from beneath the landmark Gateway Arch and filled the green space downtown all the way to the historic old courthouse — famous as the site of the pro-slavery Dred Scott case in the mid-1800s.
Obama devoted most of his speech to the economy. And he defended himself against attacks from John McCain that he'll raise taxes on the middle class. Obama says only those making more than $250,000 will see their taxes go up. He accused McCain of mimicking President Bush by proposing big tax cuts for the wealthy.
"We need new priorities in Washington," Obama told the crowd. "I think it's time to give a tax cut to the teachers and janitors who work in our schools; to the cops and firefighters who keep us safe; to the waitresses working double shifts; the nurses in the ER; and the plumbers fighting for their American dream"
Portions of the Missouri speech also marked a return to some of the loftier rhetoric that was a staple in Obama's early primary speeches. For months, his speeches have been less poetic, with more nuts and bolts comparisons to John McCain. But standing under the gleaming silver arch on the Mississippi River, he evoked an image of earlier Americans looking for change.
"It reminds me we had someone in our past, a parent or grandparent, [who] said, 'I'm gonna go West. Maybe our child or grandchild can make it.' I look at all those immigrants who said, 'I can't have freedom, but maybe if I travel across an ocean, maybe I'll have freedom. Maybe my child can have freedom.'"
It's the kind of rhetoric that has prompted opponents to say Obama is all about delivering great speeches and nothing more. But for Obama, the early speeches helped create the early momentum and now, with 16 days left, the campaign hopes rekindling that excitement will drive a huge turnout on Election Day.