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Thursday, October 25, 2012

The President Could Use a Good Lozenge

RICHMOND, Va. â€" Working himself into a passion in front of thousands of supporters on a warm, sunny day here, President Obama declared that “everybody has a voice in America.”

But at the rate things are going, he may soon be an exception.

Now in his sixth state in two days, Mr. Obama seems to be losing the battle of the throat as his voice grows coarser with each passing rally. He is operating on just a few hours of sleep caught during a red-eye flight from the West and clearly seems in need of a good lozenge.

“You may notice my voice sounds just a little hoarse,” the president told a rally of 15,000 people in the shadow of the Carillon monument to World War I soldiers. “We are right in the middle of our 48-hour, fly-around campaign extravaganza. We pulled an all-nighter last night. We just came from Florida. We were in Iowa and Nevada and Colorado before that. We're heading up to Ohio later today.”

To be precise, it's more like a 39- hour fly-around (he left the White House about 8 a.m. on Wednesday and is scheduled to land back on the South Lawn about 11 p.m. on Thursday night). But either way, it's a wearying jaunt intended to show resilience and determination to win. The president's staff does not mind all that much if he sounds hoarse since it suggests he is working overtime for the country's support. Republicans argue it's a sign of desperation to begin so early the round-the-clock trips usually reserved for the final days of a campaign.

Despite the grueling schedule, aides said Mr. Obama has been pumped up by rallies over the last two days even as his opponent, Mitt Romney, has closed the gap in most national polls. “He knows this is his last campaign but he's having a good time out here,” said Jen Psaki, a campaign spokeswoman traveling with him on Air Force One.

Losing a voice in the marathon days of a campaign is not unusual for presidents or their challengers. Bill Clinton kept coming down with laryngitis in 1992 and even brought a speech therapist onto his plane to help him protect his throat. Gerald R. Ford had so exhausted his voice that when he called Jimmy Carter the morning after the 1976 election, he had to hand the phone to his chief of staff, Dick Cheney, to actually concede the race.

Follow Peter Baker on Twitter at @peterbakernyt.