CHICAGO (CNN) – Advance staff members for Sen. Barack Obama have begun to test out the podium where he is expected to speak in the coming hours.
The ticketed areas within Grant Park are filling up, and people are pressed against bicycle fencing, waving signs and waving to the hundreds of cameras trained on the ever-growing crowd.
The area directly beneath the catwalk and podium is reserved for VIP guests and staffers. With each state called for Obama, staff members, who have appeared tense and haggard in recent days, are yelping and jumping around. Many staffers have also brought their parents into Chicago to take in the evening.
In a sign that the entire city is stoked about tonight's attention, red, white and blue bunting lines Michigan Avenue, and buildings in downtown Chicago that face Grant Park have turned on lights to spell out "USA" and "VOTE 2008."
Sen. John McCain talks with Marshall University's football team in Huntington, West Virginia. Photo credit: Peter Hamby/CNN
A supporter of Barack Obama sports his own version of the Illinois senator's campaign logo at an event in Elkhart, Indiana. Photo credit: Sasha Johnson/CNN
(CNN) - A top aide to Barack Obama said Friday the campaign canceled a scheduled visit to an American military base in Germany the day before because the Pentagon expressed concerns it would be viewed as a campaign trip.
The incident is representative of the delicacy with which the Obama campaign has attempted to navigate the Illinois senator's entire journey abroad - at once staging elaborate photo-ops beamed back to the American media while at the same time insisting that Obama's trip is not a political one by definition.
The Illinois senator had planned on visiting a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany - currently housing American troops injured in Iraq. The visit was expected to come after Obama's speech in Berlin. But the campaign suddenly announced Thursday the stop had been canceled, saying then Obama had determined it would be "inappropriate."
But speaking to reporters Friday, Senior Obama adviser Robert Gibbs said Ret. Major Gen. Scott Gration, currently a policy adviser to the campaign, received a call from Pentagon officials earlier in the week who expressed concern with the trip - specifically because Obama was heading there on his campaign plane and campaign staff would be accompanying him on the visit.
After speaking with Gration, the campaign decided to cancel the trip. Gibbs said Obama is "comfortable with the decision" because he did not want to make the troops part of a campaign event.
But the decision to cancel the event drew widespread criticisms from conservative blogs and the McCain campaign.
"It is never ‘inappropriate’ to visit our men and women in the military," McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters later Friday the Pentagon did not explicitly say Obama should not visit the base, but was concerned with whether his capacity there would be one of a presidential candidate, not a senator.