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Biden's sprint through Florida

From NBC's Ron Allen

MELBOURNE, Fla. -- It was a surprisingly chilly morning in Ocala yesterday, where Biden was practically sprinting to the end of his speech at the Dancing Horses Farm.

"So, Get up. Get up!" Biden yells into the mic, his signature big finish, quoting his dad's advice when Joe Jr. met misfortune like getting knocked down on the football field or facing rejection by a girl.

Now, it's time for America to "Get up" the candidate proclaims, with ear-splitting volume, often while pounding the podium.

The press corps checks the time with anticipation. Biden clocks in under 15 minutes, perhaps 14:40, unofficially. That could be a record for his fastest speech of the fall campaign season. Exact times for some recent events are the subject of some dispute. Let's just say he's trying to talk to as many voters as possible down the home stretch.

And for the record the overnight temperature was listed at 36 degrees -- painfully disappointing, in fact shocking, for the shivering pack of reporters now following Biden from summer into autumn, who had been looking forward to a much warmer swing through the Sunshine State.
  
Biden is clearly in a hurry here. The staff had us on and off the bus, quickly moving from event to event. Police usher the motorcade along its way.

We are on a long, make that very long, three-day bus ride that today cuts diagonally through a somewhat Republican stretch of the state, from Ocala to Melbourne.

The message: "Now, I know the last time out, an awful lot of folks in this area put their faith in George Bush ... and we cannot afford four more years of the same policies they took a shot on four years ago, ladies and gentlemen."
 
There were four stops yesterday, the horse farm, a tiny campaign office too small for all of the small press corps to fit in and another ice cream and candy shop.  

This time he's in a retirement community, the nation's largest, and the scene of occasional golf cart traffic jams we are told. "The Villages" is near Lady Lake. Biden's visit is probably no coincidence. Sarah Palin campaigned here just after becoming the GOP VP nominee at their convention.
 
Finally, Biden touches down at a rally in a park just down the road from the "astronaut school,"  along the so-called "Space Coast," in Melbourne, near the Kennedy Space Center. 
   
Biden is moving and talking so fast, at one point he referred to his running mate as "Barack O--," No time for the -bama. His thoughts may have raced ahead of his mouth, while criticizing their opponents, "John and Sarah McCain." He recovered with a quick jab. "Well, they think alike!"
 
Why is Biden moving so fast?

"I don't have to tell anyone here that every single vote counts," he told a knowing crowd, recalling the hanging chads of 2000.

And what's more, the election of 2008, not just the campaign, is already in full swing here. Record numbers of Floridians are voting early. Some two million votes have been cast during the eight days the polls have been open, some 200,000 on one single day. So many, Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican, has extended early voting to 12-hour days through Friday, 7am to 7pm.

Voters also can cast ballots on Saturday, and in some counties, even on Sunday. The Obama campaign expects and hopes turnout tops 75 percent. Voting is a big deal here.
  
Democrats believe early voting favors them, and even eliminates the edge Republicans usually have with absentee ballots.
  
Democrats also see another big edge in Florida, whenever they watch TV. Obama's eye-popping fundraising prowess has allowed him to outspend McCain by as much as four-to-one on ads lately. Topped off with tonight's 30-minute Obama campaign info-mercial.
 
All of that has, at the very least, forced McCain-Palin to spend time, money and scarce resources in what has been a pivotal state that the GOP really hopes and probably needs to win.

They, too, are campaigning hard in this state that has been kind to the GOP. The state's large veterans community, where McCain has roots, and its significant elderly and retiree population, are expected to help McCain here as well. The GOP also has a solid base of support in South Florida's Cuban-American communities.
 
However, in this election that variable has changed somewhat. Florida is experiencing a growing influx of new Latino immigrants, and growing generational differences within Cuban families now here more than half a century. The number of Latino Democrats is expected to top the number of Republicans statewide for the first time. 
  
Today, Team Obama takes a big step to try to nail things down here. Florida will host the first joint appearance by Bill Clinton and Obama. And, trying to take advantage of the changing demographics here, the campaign says the event will have a "Latin influence," and happen in Spanish as well as English.

Clinton is a popular and familiar figure with most Latino voters, one reason Hillary Clinton did so well in that community during the primaries. She, by the way, has been in Florida recently campaigning for Obama/Biden too. Latino voters are emerging as 2008's key swing demographic in other critical states like Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado as well.
 
Biden and Obama also have a rare joint rally Wednesday, yet another "get-out-the-vote," event. The last time they shared a stage some 35,000 people saw them in Detroit.
  
Meanwhile, Biden's final speech yesterday, at the event along the Space Coast, clocked in at around 17 minutes. Not a record, but not long ago 30 minutes and sometimes much more, was the meandering norm.

At one point Biden said, keeping his pace up, that if folks had time to come out to see him, they had time to go vote.

He shook a bunch of hands, posed for pictures, and then made his way behind the stage, and onto his bus, as the crowd waved Good Night.

Once again a chill wind was, like the senator, blowing through supposed-to-be balmy Florida, where voting turnout already is quite hot and heavy.