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Axelrod previews Obama's speech

From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
IN THE SKY OVER COLORADO (Earlier) -- Campaign chief strategist David Axelrod gave reporters a preview of the speech Obama will give Thursday night at Invesco Field.

"The speech is substantially written but as with all Obama speeches, he'll be refining it and buffing it up and working on it, I'm sure, right until the very end," Axelrod said during a briefing near the end of the flight from Montana to Denver today.

Obama began thinking about tomorrow's speech during his vacation in Hawaii, and had been the chief writer, crafting a first draft and then working with others, including speechwriter Jon Favreau.

"[Obama's] the best speechwriter in the group, and he knows what he wants to say and he feels strongly about that," said Axelrod, who explained that the senator usually writes a draft in long-hand and then types it into his computer.

He said the speech would lay out the case for change and set the stakes in the election. Obama will talk about "the risks of continuing down the road we're on, which is plainly what Sen. McCain is offering. And he's gonna talk about an alternative path that's rooted in the best of what this country is and the kind of future that we can build if we take it."
Obama's goal is to talk to the American people directly about the challenges the country faces what it is gonna take to solve them, Axelrod said, adding that he would not shy away from drawing contrasts with John McCain on such issues as the economy and foreign policy. 

Axelrod's response to the McCain campaign's criticism of the Democratic convention as a celebrity phenomenon suggested he felt the Republican did not have standing to make such remarks. "I know that Sen. McCain and his people are shooting barbs about the opulence of our convention from the mountaintop in Sedona at the McCain estate," he said. "I don't think that warrants a response."

He could not say how long the speech would be, because it was still being edited and said that while Obama was grateful to Hillary Clinton for her support and her strong speech, he did not know whether the senator would talk about his former rival on Thursday.

Axelrod said the speeches by Bill Clinton in 1992, Ronald Reagan in 1980, and John F. Kennedy in 1960 had "particular interest" for Obama as he searched for inspiration. And he repeated a comment Obama made earlier in the week -- that this speech would not be like the one he delivered in 2004 when he was new to the national stage.

Obama will be speaking on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, but Axelrod would not say whether the senator would make any reference to that historic address.