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Watch: Calm Obama blitzes US networks with landmark 30-minute prime time ad

America's problems go back decades, but the nation's "optimism and hope and strength" would lead to better times ahead, Barack Obama said yesterday.

The Democrat adopted a quiet, calm and reflective tone as he became the first presidential candidate in 16 years to air a 30-minute primetime "infomercial" on US TV networks, a move thought to have cost his campaign almost £2 million.

The 47-year-old Illinois senator mixed a series of stories from Americans he has met during 20 months on the campaign trail with details of his proposed policies as he aimed to propel his campaign over the finish line with less than a week to go.

Showing images of corn fields, factories and urban rallies, Mr Obama echoed the "closing argument" of his presidential bid as he said: "With each passing month our country's faced increasingly difficult times.

"But everywhere I go, despite the economic crisis and war and uncertainty about tomorrow, I still see optimism and hope and strength."

As the video cut to Mr Obama in a room which looked similar to the Oval Office with a prominent US flag, he said: "We've seen over the last eight years how decisions by presidents can have a profound effect on the course of history and on American lives.

"But much that's wrong with our country goes back farther than that. We've been talking about the same problems for decades, nothing is ever done to solve them."

Sitting on the edge of the desk, he went on: "This election is a defining moment, the chance for our leaders to meet the demands of these challenging times and keep faith with our people.

"For the past 20 months I've travelled the length of this country and Michelle and I have met so many Americans who are looking for real and lasting change that makes a difference in their lives.

"Their stories are America's stories."

The infomercial interspersed these stories from American families with clips from the campaign trail and footage of Mr Obama outlining his policies from the presidential office-setting.

It was the start of a TV blitz by the Democrat which will delay the start of the baseball World Series final by 15 minutes and saturate the market so much that he will even be competing with himself.

Later, ABC, the only network not showing the infomercial, will screen a taped interview with the Illinois senator as he holds his first joint rally with popular former president Bill Clinton, an event sure to be carried live by many US networks and TV news channels.

The TV assault emphasises the Obama campaign's financial dominance over Republican rival John McCain, who also trails in the polls.

"I will not be a perfect president," Mr Obama said. "But I can promise you this - I will always tell you what I think and where I stand."

Obama campaign aides described the unusual advert as a final summation of his campaign.

Later, they put its total cost at approximately four million dollars (£2.4m) as the advert aired simultaneously on CBS, NBC and Fox. It also ran on BET, Univision, MSNBC and TV One.

For its climax, the advert went live to Mr Obama addressing tens of thousands of supporters at a rally in Florida, a critical battleground state where Mr Obama is trying to capture traditionally Republican territory.

"America, the time for change has come," he said to loud cheers.

"In six days, we can choose hope over fear, and unity over division; the promise of change over the power of the status quo.

"In six days we can come together as one nation, and one people, and once again choose our better history.

"That's what's at stake, that's what we're fighting for: for men and women in every city and town across this nation to achieve their American Dream."

He urged Americans to stand with him and fight in this last week, and said: "Together we will change this country and change the world".

His Republican rival Mr McCain, who was not mentioned in the advert, lacks the money to match the commercial.

Instead, at a rally in Florida, he attacked his rival's strategy.

"He's got a few things he wants to sell you," the 72-year-old Arizona senator said.

"He's offering government-run health care... an energy plan guaranteed to work without drilling... and an automatic wealth spreader that folds neatly and fits under any bed."

Mr McCain also criticised Mr Obama for having signed a pledge to accept federal funds for the autumn campaign and then breaking his word.

By opting out of the public financing, Mr Obama was free to repeatedly break fund-raising records, bringing in 150 million dollars (£91.2m) in September alone, whereas Mr McCain was limited to spending 84.1 million dollars (£51.2m) between his party's national convention and the election on Tuesday.

Even as the advert aired, Mr McCain sent an email to supporters asking for an "emergency donation" to his campaign.

"I'm asking for your financial support today to help us respond to attacks against our entire ticket," he wrote.

"My friends, I'm telling you today, this election is not over and we need everyone's hard work in the coming days to be victorious."

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