STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Barack Obama spent his last day of the campaign rushing from rally to rally in three battleground states. He started in Jacksonville, Florida, and then he flew to Charlotte, North Carolina. Finally an election eve rally in Manassas, Virginia.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
But a day that offered a rousing finish to his campaign was also intermingled with sadness. Barack Obama learned that his 86-year-old grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, had died of cancer in Hawaii. NPR's Don Gonyea has this story.
DON GONYEA: It was just a week and a half ago that Barack Obama took time away from the campaign to go visit his grandmother back in Honolulu. She was seriously ill, and it wasn't clear how long she would live. Those were the last moments Obama would have with the woman he gives great credit to for helping to raise him. He got word of her death around eight yesterday morning. Dunham was his mother's mother. Her passing was announced to the public late afternoon. This is from last night in Charlotte.
(Soundbite of Democratic campaign rally, Charlotte, North Carolina)
Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Democratic Presidential Candidate): Obviously this is a little bit of a bittersweet time for me. We have had a remarkable campaign.
GONYEA: Obama told the audience he'll feel good about this campaign and the people who have joined it no matter what the result is today, but then he continued, his voice halting.
Senator OBAMA: Some of you heard that my grandmother who helped raised me passed away early this morning. And look, she - she has gone home. And she died peacefully in her sleep.
GONYEA: Tears were visible on his cheeks as he spoke. He praised his grandmother as one of the quiet heroes of this nation.
Senator OBAMA: They're not famous. Their names aren't in the newspapers. But each and every day they work hard, they look after their families, they sacrifice for their children and their grandchildren. They aren't seeking the limelight. All they try to do is just do the right thing.
GONYEA: After several minutes, he made a gradual transition to his campaign speech, though the emotional weight of the day could be felt as he worked his way through familiar lines. Still, the core message was, as it has been, that the stakes are high this election, that's it's critical to move beyond the era of President Bush.
Senator OBAMA: That's how we'll change this country with your help. That's why in these last 24 hours, we can't afford to slow down, or sit back, or let up. Not one hour, not one minute, not one second, not now, not when we've got so much at stake. We've got an election to win, North Carolina.
GONYEA: Many in this crowd said they came to see history, that it was a privilege to see Obama on this final night of the campaign. They were also thrilled that North Carolina - Republican in nine of the last 10 presidential elections - is a battleground this year. Polls show it to be dead even. In the crowd, 42-year-old teacher Annette Teesdale(ph) says she's glad Election Day is finally here, that the anticipation has been almost too much.
Ms. ANNETTE TEESDALE (Teacher): It's like birthing a baby. You know, you're there, and you want ten toes, ten fingers, and you want it to happen. You know, I remember when my first son was born, and I was like, oh, my gosh, I can't believe you're finally here. And so that's kind of what I'm feeling right now. I can't believe that we're here.
GONYEA: And for Teesdale and others in this crowd, there was no doubt whatsoever what today's outcome will be. Don Gonyea, NPR News, traveling with the Obama campaign.
MONTAGNE: Well, we are here. And you'll find complete election coverage tonight on our Web site, npr.org, including up to the minute results on all the key races, plus news, analysis and constant blogging.
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