Watch CBSN Live

Starting Gate: Closing Time

With just a little over one week left in this marathon presidential campaign, the candidates will spend their dwindling time dashing from one battleground state to another looking for the votes that could swing the election one way or the other.

That they'll be almost exclusively traversing territory President Bush won in 2004 indicates where the campaigns believe the race to be at the moment – and the candidates' arguments are telling as well. John McCain's message at the end of the campaign comes in three basic parts – convince voter that he is, in fact, not George Bush, convince them that Barack Obama is going to raise their taxes and get them to give second thought to putting a one-term senator in the White House.

Obama's closing argument, which he begins laying out in a speech today, is a much different one. "In one week, you can put an end to the politics that would divide a nation just to win an election; that tries to pit region against region, city against town, Republican against Democrat; that asks us to fear at a time when we need hope. In one week, at this defining moment in history, you can give this country the change we need," Obama will say according to prepared remarks.

"[T]he change we need isn't just about new programs and policies," he will continue. "It's about a new politics – a politics that calls on our better angels instead of encouraging our worst instincts; one that reminds us of the obligations we have to ourselves and one another."

This is the "transformational" message that first attracted attention to Obama and launched his campaign. Early in 2007, Obama joined all the then-Democratic presidential hopefuls at the DNC Winter Meeting where he delivered what at the time was described as a low-key speech to a red meat audience. "This is not a game. It's not a contest for the TV cameras," Obama told Democrats then. "This is a serious moment for America. And the American people understand that. They're in a sober mood."

It's not the same candidate who has been on display for the bulk of this campaign. For much of the primary season and most of the general election, we've heard more about health care policies than hope. There have been some high-profile exceptions – ones that the McCain campaign turned into some humorous and effective attacks on "The One." But from his acceptance speech to the debates and on the campaign trail, Obama has gone to great lengths to sound almost wonkish on policy.

Precisely because of that focus, Obama has been very successful in soothing concerns about his ability to handle the presidency. Now he appears to be ending his campaign the way he began it – on a high note.

Around The Track

  • Obama has opened up an eight-point lead in Virginia, a new Washington Post poll finds.
  • Obama faces the most pressure for a speedy transition than any president since Franklin Roosevelt, Bloomberg News reports.
  • Is Pennsylvania, the only battleground state carried by John Kerry four years ago, McCain's only hope?
  • Congressional Republicans find their candidates under the gun even in seats once thought safe, a USA Today analysis finds.
  • View CBS News In