Obama's Risky Stadium Gig

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Doung Pensinger / Getty

Workers prepare the stage at Invesco Field on day four of the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Aides to Barack Obama say he had one question when he was presented with the idea of moving his acceptance speech out of the Pepsi Center here and across the highway to an enormous football stadium.

"Will it rain?"

With the speech just hours away, you could make a list of other questions he might have asked: Will the moan of train whistles distract the audience? What about stadium acoustics? How does this rock-star venue fit with the convention theme that Obama is just "one of us"? And will the Republicans have a field day with the faux-marble stage set? (The answer to that one is yes — they've dubbed it the Temple of Obama, a.k.a. the Barackopolis, and are offering fashion tips on appropriate togas to wear.)

But if the event has turned out to involve big risks, well, Obama likes big risks. This is a man who, with the cameras rolling in Afghanistan, elected to fire a basketball from 3-point range rather than move in for a layup. Who chose as his running mate Senator Joseph Biden, a verbal thrill ride who might say anything at any moment and very frequently does. Who — and this is the biggie — decided with just a couple of years in the Senate under his belt to take on the Clinton machine in a battle for control of the Democratic Party.

What's one more gamble?

In a brief appearance Wednesday night onstage at the Pepsi Center, Obama explained to the convention crowd what he hopes to gain from moving his speech outdoors — the first time a major-party nominee has tried it since John F. Kennedy's acceptance speech in 1960. "We want to open up this convention to make sure that everybody who wants to come can join in the party and join in the effort," he said. To him, a huge crowd will illustrate a basic premise of his campaign: "Change in America doesn't start from the top — the top down. It starts from the bottom up."

And Obama campaign manager David Plouffe says the idea that his candidate should avoid addressing mega-crowds is ridiculous. "We feel it's one of the strengths of this campaign," he says.

Obama's gambles illustrate a core fact about the man: his genuine self-confidence. He clearly believes that, where he has a chance to shape an outcome, things are going to be fine. The ball will drop through the hoop instead of clanging off the rim. It's an idea shared by many talented and driven people, and it holds true all the way up to the moment when they finally meet failure.

So it was natural that Obama's only question cut straight to the factor beyond his own ability to shape his destiny. And as gambles go, late August weather in Denver is a pretty safe one. The blockbuster thunderstorms of June and July, when the sky goes jet black and the hail falls amid the whirlwinds, give way to gentler days and soft evenings.

Forecast for tonight: Clear, calm and cool.