Arizona is John McCain's home state, but Barack Obama isn't conceding it to his Republican opponent just yet.
The Obama campaign opened its new campaign headquarters at 6th Street and Roosevelt Street in Phoenix on Sept. 10, drawing several hundred supporters. Prominent Arizona Democrats, including Gov. Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Terry Goddard, spoke optimistically about the Illinois senator's chances of winning on McCain's home turf in November's presidential election.
"I'm looking out here and I'm saying to myself, ‘John McCain, get ready. You've got a surprise coming,'" Napolitano said after the leading the crowd in chanting "Yes, we can," Obama's signature campaign slogan.
Evoking the theme of Napolitano's speech at the Democratic National Convention last month, Goddard reminded the crowd that Barry Goldwater, the last Arizona Republican to win his party's nomination for president, nearly lost his home state in the 1964 election, carrying Arizona by only about 5,000 votes.
"The lesson from 1964 is it's possible. We can do it here in Arizona," he said. "This year, yes we can."
Obama has not had a campaign headquarters in Arizona since losing the state's Democratic primary to Sen. Hillary Clinton in February. That campaign brought out a lot of rancor between supporters of the two Democratic senators, but Clinton came out in support of Obama at the convention, and at the grand opening of his Phoenix headquarters, Sharon Wilkinson, chair of Arizona Women for Obama, told the crowd to expect more of the same.
"On behalf of all women for Obama, we're thrilled that Sen. Clinton will be campaigning for Sen. Obama in the coming days and weeks," Wilkinson said.
McCain, an Arizona senator since 1986, opened his Phoenix campaign headquarters in June, drawing supporters as well as more than 100 protesters. But despite the rosy rhetoric from Obama's supporters, a Cronkite/Eight poll released in mid-August showed McCain leading by about 10 percentage points, and his campaign gained momentum after last week's Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.
A major theme of Wednesday's grand opening speeches exhorting Obama's supporters to volunteer for the campaign, and dozens took that message to heart, lining up outside the new headquarters after Napolitano finished speaking.
"We're going to be walking. We're going to be talking. We're going to be persuading. We will not take no for an answer," she said. "I will see you on the campaign trail. I challenge you all to knock on as many doors as I'm going to."
Phoenix resident Emory Evans was convinced before the speeches even started. A native of Grand Rapids, Mich., who moved to Arizona three years ago, the 51-year-old Evans said he planned to volunteer, as he has done in the last three presidential elections.
Evans believes Obama's chances to win Arizona are greater than polling or media coverage suggests.
"I don't believe in polls. I believe in people," he said.
Sharon Trujillo, a 29-year-old Mesa resident, seemed more guarded about Obama's chances to take Arizona's eight electoral votes, but enthusiastically supported him nonetheless.
"He actually gives me hope and he makes me proud of what my country is and what my country can be," she said. "We have a Democratic governor, so that makes me hopeful, but I don't know. (McCain) has been a senator for a long time."
The speakers took swipes at McCain and his newly minted running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Goddard criticized McCain for changing his stances on immigration reform and tax cuts, and borrowed Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's line from the convention that candidate McCain and Sen. McCain should get together because they don't seem to be on the same page.
"We here in Arizona have to show the rest of the nation that we know Sen. McCain, and we know where he's come out wrong on some very important issues," Goddard said.
Goddard and Napolitano also took shots at Palin, the former mayor of the small town of Wasilla, Alaska.
"Are there any small town mayors here≠" Goddard asked, "Because we need advice on foreign policy."