Page last updated at 03:44 GMT, Sunday, 24 August 2008 04:44 UK

Silver-haired boost for Obama

By Adam Brookes and Rachel Harvey
BBC News, Springfield, Illinois

There was a reason why Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama summoned the faithful to Springfield.

Joseph Biden addresses the crowd in Illinois as Barack Obama sits
The two men have 10 weeks of campaigning ahead

This was the city in which Abraham Lincoln built his political career. Perhaps the Obama campaign was hoping that some of the redolent local symbolism would rub off?

The crowd was large, but not enormous, and many people were wilting in the sweltering Illinois heat.

As Barack Obama took the stage his welcome was intense but this crowd did not seem to match the almost ecstatic welcome afforded him a year and a half ago when he stood in the same place on a freezing February day and announced he was running for president.

When Senator Joseph Biden made his appearance he bounded along the platform - maybe to show vigour.

He is, after all, 65, and a silver-haired veteran of American politics.

He is not the man many expected to be chosen by a campaign so focused on youth. And the contrast was there for all to see - the young charismatic African-American with his arms round the shoulders of the older stalwart of the very white Washington establishment.

High security

By the standards of an Obama rally the speeches were somewhat muted. It could have just been the heat or maybe it was evidence the campaign is now looking to project gravitas and maturity.

Ran for presidency in 1988
Delaware senator since 1972
A straight talker, who makes occasional gaffes

Today Joe Biden described Senator Obama as having a clear-eyed pragmatism. Many here would argue that his most pragmatic decision to date was choosing Mr Biden to put on the ticket.

The Secret Service was of course everywhere, immediately recognisable by their dark suits, sunglasses and exaggerated politeness.

Snipers lounged on rooftops, the sun glinting off their telescopic sights.

The question of Mr Obama's security is a difficult one to discuss, loaded as it is with questions of race and his vulnerability to race hatred.

But the security which surrounded this event in the midst of a friendly crowd showed it is right at the forefront of the minds of the American establishment.

Mr Biden now, too, will find himself and his family cocooned in all the paraphernalia of 21st Century security.

Ten short weeks

And then it was all over and the obligatory high-volume U2 track Beautiful Day bounced off the brown stones of this old State Capitol.

From here the Obama/Biden ticket dashes through a number of vital battleground states before making its progress to Denver, Colorado.

For the coming week, the American political landscape will be flooded with carefully calibrated images and language designed to unite the Democratic Party and rally them behind the newly established team.

This campaign has not yet set alight the American electorate the way its supporters had hoped it would on that freezing February day in 2007.

There are only 10 weeks to go now until the election.

The Obama team have to hope that the combination of old and young, change now bolstered by experience, unveiled outside the old Statehouse in Springfield will work.

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