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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?