TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- In the final week of the 2004 presidential election, campaign veteran Sam Myers allowed himself a moment of optimism about the momentum John Kerry appeared to be enjoying. Surveying an enthusiastic crowd packed in for a rally one night, he turned to a colleague and remarked that the Democrats "might just pull this off."
The next day, a videotape featuring Osama bin Laden hit the airwaves, playing a role, many think, in helping President Bush stave off defeat and win re-election days later.
Campaign staffers are a superstitious bunch, but those who travel with Joe Biden also have an irreverent streak. And so, during rallies, Myers will often approach Biden spokesperson David Wade, another Kerry alum, and suggest, "You know, I think we just might pull this off."
Wade laughs about it but swears that the campaign is taking nothing for granted in the final hours of what has been a nearly two-year campaign. There is an air of cautious optimism around the Biden campaign heading into the final 48 hours.
The vice presidential nominee himself has seemed a bit looser, even joking about "smelling victory in the air" during a rally in Florida's capital city Sunday morning. The relaxed mood has coincided with the presence of his wife, Jill, a full-time teacher who has done some solo campaigning on her own but is now introducing her husband at every rally, praising his record as a family man and a legislator.
Biden has traveled regularly with family members, most often his son, Hunter, or brother, Jimmie. But aides say it is his wife who "brings out the best in him," and she is a welcome addition for the final days. Acknowledging her at each event, Biden has told crowds that he certainly "married up."
"I tell you what, I owe Barack Obama a lot," he said in Marion, Ohio, on Saturday. "I can't tell him how much I appreciate him picking me for vice president because I have never heard Jill say so many nice things about me in public."
The Biden team's strategy has shifted only slightly for the final days. Where he has concentrated recently on stumping in more rural, often more Republican counties, his schedule now includes a few major media markets and some bluer terrain as the campaign's emphasis turns to getting out the vote.
When asked Sunday if Biden's message would change at all in the last hours of the campaign, Wade said the Delaware senator would continue to tie John McCain to the Bush administration. A longtime Biden aide seated nearby then joked that he'd also be making some "personnel announcements," though he didn't say what for.
Jokes aside, there is great reluctance to think past Tuesday. And Biden himself often points to the past two presidential elections as proof that no lead is truly insurmountable.
"We've been here before where things looked, you know, really good," he told reporters Friday night. "I felt awful good about this time in the Kerry campaign, and I felt good in the Gore campaign. So, that old joke, you know, it ain't over till it's over... We look good but it's not over yet."
Friday's media availability was a rare one for the Biden traveling press corps. It was the first time he was allowed to take multiple questions since he came to the back of the plane to chat with reporters nearly two months ago.
Biden, who has been sticking more closely to his script in the last few weeks, laughed off a question from a reporter who asked if he felt "muzzled." But for a campaign doing its best to show a poker face, the mere fact that the senator was taking questions at all was perhaps the greatest sign of their confidence.