Sen. Barack Obama summoned the world to the cause of his presidential campaign on Thursday.
But he won't need the world to win the still-tight election: He continues to need a few million of his countrymen, residing in swing states, to accept the prospect of his serving as commander-in-chief.
Obama's soaring speech before a crowd of some 200,000 in Berlin took his message global. Without mentioning President Bush, Obama played off the Bush administration's wide unpopularity -- something with appeal in both Europe and the United States.
"People of Berlin -- people of the world -- this is our moment. This is our time," said Obama, D-Ill. "I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we've struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We've made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions."
"But I also know how much I love America," he added.
For all the powerful visuals of Obama's overseas trip -- shooting hoops with troops, riding a helicopter with Gen. David Petraeus, being received as a world leader from Jordan to Germany -- it's not clear that Obama made up further ground Thursday in answering the most significant concerns about his candidacy.
In deciding for a big public appearance in Europe focusing on America's standing in the world, the Obama campaign is calculating the nation's desire for change is closely entwined with hope for improved U.S. relationships with allies. A recent Pew poll found that a majority of Americans find the nation's deteriorating status abroad to be a major problem.
'Country Isn't Sold on Obama'
But the country isn't sold on Obama as the candidate to deliver the right kind of change. Despite a national environment that's hostile to Republicans, and generally positive coverage of the early part of his trip, the new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll has Obama up six points over McCain -- right where the race was a month ago.
Fifty-five percent of respondents judge Obama the "riskier" choice as president, and only 47 percent said they could relate to Obama's background -- compared to 58 percent for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Fifty-three percent said McCain would make the better commander-in-chief; only 25 percent said the same about Obama.
A series of new battleground-state polls conducted by Quinnipiac University underscore how tight the race is -- and contribute to the sense that a different race is playing out in Washington than the one that's making its way to the heartland.
The polls have Obama up by just two points in Minnesota and four points in Michigan -- both states carried by Democrat John Kerry in 2004. Obama is down by two points in Colorado, one of the Bush states Democrats stand the best chance of flipping.
To Obama's critics, the speech in Berlin is likely to serve as another example of presumptuousness on the part of the Illinois Democrat. Obama has already been criticized for his presidential-like entourage and trappings during his foreign trip -- a trip that has an itinerary that's unprecedented for a candidate.
"I'd love to give a speech in Germany," McCain said on the trail in Ohio Thursday, "but I'd much prefer to do it as President."
To drive home the contrast, McCain on Thursday campaigned in the German Village section of Columbus, Ohio, where he chatted with German-Americans at "Schmidt's Sausage Haus und Restaurant."
"I don't know why Obama's getting all this attention. McCain is right where he should be -- in America," Columbus resident Diane Woods told ABC's David Wright.
Obama has plenty of time to turn his attention stateside. McCain did not seem to effectively capitalize on the time Obama spent abroad this week, with scattered messaging combining with bad luck to put him off track.
But in Obama's call for the world to stand with those who need help in Chad, Iran and Darfur, Obama is inviting his political opponents to point out that the next president will have to worry about Americans who need help in Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Detroit.