Obama returns to Iowa for end of campaign

 

Des Moines, Iowa

The end, for President Barack Obama, came in Iowa.

Ohio may prove to be the most important state in the 2012 election. But on Monday, the president closed his final campaign with a rally in the Hawkeye State, returning one last time as a candidate to the place that launched his improbable run to the White House.

The decision to bid farewell to the campaign trail with a nighttime appearance in Des Moines's historic East Village was as symbolic as it was strategic.

Obama is expected to have spent more than $1 billion on his campaign for reelection. He held 101 rallies. His final day included events in Madison, Wis., and Columbus, Ohio.

But the president has a special fondness for Iowa, where he upset Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic caucuses in January 2008. First lady Michelle Obama and rock icon Bruce Springsteen joined him Monday as he made his last appeal to voters outside the one-story brick building on Locust Street that housed his first field office for the 2008 campaign. It is now a church.

"Iowa, I started my presidential journey right here in this state," Obama said in Dubuque over the weekend, when he made his 17th visit to the state during his presidency and his 11th this year. "So after two years of campaigning, and after four years as president, you know me by now."

As Election Day drew near, Obama and his team of longtime advisers grew increasingly nostalgic. Spokeswoman Jen Psaki appeared at a rally in Cincinnati sporting a faded black Obama '08 baseball cap. Campaign adviser David Axelrod and White House adviser David Plouffe, also traveling with Obama, were wearing matching black Obama '08 fleece pullovers Monday. And White House speechwriters Jon Favreau and Ben Rhodes, who stumped with him four years ago, let their facial hair grow, vowing to shave only after the president had won his final campaign.

Aides said Obama, too, has reflected on the moment and how far he has come — win or lose.

The president is "well aware this is his last campaign," Axelrod said. As Obama took the stage before 18,000 in Madison, the senior adviser added: "I just said to the president this is like the end of a long-running series, and all the characters are coming back to be here. This has been a special journey."

Old friends Martin Nesbitt and Michael Ramos have traveled with the president this week on Air Force One. Robert Gibbs, Obama's former campaign and White House spokesman, was with him on the final day. So was Reggie Love, the president's personal aide during the 2008 campaign and the first three years of his term.

"Nobody gave us a chance to win the nomination," Plouffe said, reflecting on the first campaign. The night is "profoundly emotional."

Gibbs, now a private communications consultant advising the campaign, recalled the early days in 2007 when he forced Obama, then a senator from Illinois, to make 30 calls a day to Iowa officials, including high school student organizers. One girl told Obama, who was calling from an airplane, that she was too busy in yearbook class and would call him back.

"There were certain indignities for running for president back then," Axelrod said with a chuckle.

Much has changed since Jan. 3, 2008, when the young senator stood in front of supporters in Des Moines and vowed that someday, they would look back at his caucus victory as a "defining moment in history."

He had won the longest and most intense caucus campaign in history, besting Clinton after a year-long struggle that boosted turnout on voting day to 239,000, far above the 124,000 who participated in 2004. Obama took 38 percent of the vote to Clinton's 29.5 percent. Former Senator John Edwards, N.C., finished second with 29.8 percent.

"You said the time has come to move beyond the bitterness and pettiness and anger that has consumed Washington," Obama said during his victory remarks then. "We are choosing hope over fear; we're choosing unity over division and sending a powerful message that change is coming to America."

Nearly five years later, however, even the president acknowledges that his time in office has been defined by sharply partisan battles with Republicans in Congress. The Des Moines Register, Iowa's most influential newspaper, endorsed Obama four years ago but stunned the president almost two weeks ago by throwing its support behind Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

Obama "rocketed to the presidency from relative obscurity with a theme of hope and change," the newspaper said in its editorial. "A different reality has marked his presidency."

State polls show Obama maintaining an advantage of about five percentage points, but Romney remains within striking distance. The GOP nominee appeared in the state Sunday with his own appeal to anxious residents.

Obama, aware that even his supporters are "frustrated sometimes with the pace of change," has altered his closing appeal to emphasize that he has the scars — and gray hair — to testify to the battles he's fought with his Republican foes in Congress.

"I'm frustrated too, sometimes," he said Sunday in New Hampshire. "But you know where I stand. You know what I believe. You know I tell the truth. And you know that I will fight for you and your families every single day, as hard as I know how."

After Des Moines, Obama was scheduled to return to his home town, Chicago, where he will wait with his family Tuesday for results to come in. "It's safe to say that all Election Day traditions will be observed," Axelrod said.

Love is organizing the president's traditional Election Day pickup basketball game.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before