CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (CNN) - After a campaign with a lot of focus on 3 a.m. phone calls, chief Obama strategist David Axelrod recalled a 2 a.m. e-mail as a decisive moment.
It was the evening before Barack Obama's big speech on race - an effort to quiet the uproar over statements from his chicago pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Some aides weren't quite sure a race speech was a good idea, but Obama was adamant and "we didn't have a better idea," Axelrod told a forum at Harvard's Institute of Politics Thursday evening.
Axelrod recalled going to sleep after a long day of campaigning in Pennsylvania, knowing Obama had retired to his hotel room to the finish the speech.
At 2 a.m., he said he woke up and Obama had e-mailed the speech. After scrolling through the text on his blackberry, Axelrod said he replied with a simple sentence: "This is why you should be president."
Chief McCain pollster Bill Mcinturff, also at the forum, said McCain was adamant that his campaign would not raise Rev. Wright as an issue.
But even if he thought otherwise, Mcinturff said given McCain's deficit among younger and latino voters, using the Wright issue would likely have backfired.
In his best case scenario using Wright as an issue, Mcinturff said McCain might win the presidency with 273 electoral votes but lose the popular vote by "3 million votes and de-legitimize the presidency."