In 2004, State Sen. Barack Obama would write down ideas on scraps of paper as he prepared for his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. Finally, one night at Park Hyatt in Chicago, he wrote it all down in one first draft on his laptop computer. He sent it to his advisers in the middle of the night.
"By the third page, I realized, 'This is going to be a really good speech,'" recalls one of those advisers.
With a little more on the line this year, Obama -- whose superstitious nature leads him to carry a pocketful of good luck charms voters have given him -- returned to the Park Hyatt last week to write down this year's first draft. According to aides, he writes in longhand, pencil on legal paper, then types it out on his laptop.
Because of the protracted primary season, Obama is playing catch-up a bit. He wrote an outline while on vacation in Hawaii, but didn't get any time for serious work while there with his family.
To prepare, he read the convention acceptance speeches of former Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, as well as less successful Democratic presidential nominees Vice President Al Gore and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.
In addition to laying out his plans and providing some inspiring oratory -- though not as much as in 2004, aides cautioned -- one of the goals of the speech is to argue that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is no maverick, but rather, someone who represents a doubling-down of the current policies of President George W. Bush.
Tonight, at the Billings, Mont., Crown Plaza Hotel, Obama will put the finishing touches on his speech, in his last real night of speech prep. Tomorrow night, he will be in Denver, seeing his family for the first time since Saturday, watching the speech of his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del.
In addition to working on his speech tonight, Obama will watch the convention on TV. He will fly to Denver tomorrow afternoon.