Inauguration Diary: One day to go

Even McCain voters are optimistic about Obama

The transition is almost over and although it has not been without the odd stumble, the popularity of Barack Obama seems only to have grown. A CNN-Opinion Research Corporation poll released yesterday suggests that the President-elect now enjoys an 84 per cent approval rating, up 5 points since the beginning of December. It also said that most Americans regard the inauguration as a rare opportunity for the country to come together. Even the occasional pothole along the road from Chicago to Washington, including the awkward proximity of the muck-spattered governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, has not dulled the halo. A separate New York Times- CBS News poll says that 79 per cent of Americans are optimistic about Obama's first term, including 58 per cent of those who voted for John McCain. All this giddiness means Mr Obama has further to fall once he starts governing. It is safe to assume that that change may take a little longer to deliver than advertised.

Comfort and vanity pale beside presidential safety

Oh, the myriad worries of Tuesday. What to wear at the swearing in – long-johns or no long-johns? How to travel – bus, underground or shoe leather? What to wear at the balls? Such questions of comfort and vanity may seem petty to the agencies for which only one thing matters: keeping the presidents – the 43rd and 44th – safe. Little has been left to chance. Two square miles around the Capitol have been fenced off. Anyone entering the Obama-zone will be screened and searched. Security cameras are everywhere, primed to relay live feeds to a Joint Operations Centre. The military will patrol the skies and the Potomac River and 4,000 DC police officers will be joined by another 4,000 from 99 departments in the region. And then there are the other security operations under the Secret Service that none of us will ever know about.

American capitalism cashes in on the party

The nation's capital is turning into a giant bazaar for all things Obama. Tuesday is the day the souvenir vendors hope to unload all those T-shirts and caps and squeeze their last dollars from Obama-mania. And who can blame them? But big corporations are jumping on the bandwagon too. Ikea, the house furnishing chain, has flooded the market with ads proclaiming "Change Begins at Home," while Pepsi has lined the city's underground platforms with posters bearing the words "Hope" and "Optimism", where the 'O's have been replaced by the company's logo. Who said capitalism is on the retreat?

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