Michael Schaffer reports from one of Barack Obama's Philadelphia rallies: 

Obama is due just after 1 p.m. The mood in the long lines to get into the five blocks in front of the stage is the precise opposite of the surly scenes outside GOP rallies that have made the rounds on YouTube over the past week. It's hard to get anyone to say a nasty word about anything. References to John McCain are conspicuously absent from signs and buttons and sidewalk conversation. "Look how beautiful this is," says Elsa Waldman, 26, a midwife, whose poodle is clad in an Obama shirt. "There's babies, old people, people in wheelchairs. Historically, us young people don't get and vote. It's so exciting." This is what it feels like when your candidate is running downhill: You get to babble about excitement, and not about conspiracies involving opposing candidates' religious backgrounds or voter-registration tactics.

Inside the rally, even the arrival of the press bus sets off a cheer in the crowd. Sure, most people assumed it was Obama arriving. But one of the reporters tells me the bus got the finger from a crowd at a McCain rally in Wisconsin yesterday. Through the weird prism of election-year October, a beaten-down inner-city corner seems sunnier and happier and less alienated than the rural Midwest. The residents of 52nd and Locust are listening--it gets played from the PA system twice during the gathering--to a patriotic tune by Brooks and Dunn.

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