(Photo credit: AP)
DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) – Before a wildly enthusiastic standing room only crowd in downtown Des Moines, Barack Obama delivered the closing argument of his Iowa campaign Thursday. He framed his campaign as the only one aspiring to the true possibility of a better America and he called on his audience to reject the anger and appeals to fear that he suggest are coming from both Sen Clinton and Sen John Edwards campaigns.
Challenging Sen. Clinton’s claim that her Washington experience makes her best positioned to enact reforms, Obama said “you can’t at once argue that you’re the master of a broken system in Washington and offer yourself as the person to change it.” Taking on her vote on the Iraq war, he charged, “You can’t fall in line behind the conventional thinking on issues as profound as war and offer yourself as the leader who is best prepared to chart a new and better course for America.” In another not-so-thinly veiled attack on Senator Clinton he denounced Democrats who engage in “the same politics of fear”, who “invokes 9/11 as a way to scare up votes.”
Clinton spokesman Phil Singer quickly reacted to the speech, saying, “Now is not the time for political attacks, it's time to pick a president who can give us a new beginning in a time of war and a troubled economy."
"There are big stakes in this election – Iowans are going to pick the candidate best able to make the change we need starting on day one and that candidate is Hillary Clinton," he added.
Turning to John Edwards’ message that the struggle against special interests requires head-on confrontation that only Edwards is willing to engage in, Obama offered this: “There are others in this race who sy that this kind of change sounds good but that I’m not angry or confrontational enough to get it done. Well let me tell you something, Iowa. I don’t need any lectures on how to bring abut change because I haven’t just talked about it on the campaign trail, I fought for change all my life."
The speech, which lasted about 25 minutes, was billed as the debut of a honed message that the Obama campaign hopes will deliver him this first-in-the nation state and give him the momentum to win in New Hampshire and beyond. The speech was filled with talk of hope and change – his theme throughout the campaign. At one point he insisted of Washington “we don’t need more heat, we need more light.” The speech was littered with references to cynics, and those engaged in a “divisive food fight” in Washington; He also thanked the crowd for letting him run what he insists is a positive campaign. “You have vindicated me Iowa,” he declared.
The boisterous audience made up largely of voters who are already committed to Obama, gave him rounds of rousing applause. Some of the loudest came when he insisted votes have a change to “build a new majority of not just Democrats, but Independents and Republicans who’ve lost faith in their Washington leaders ,but want to believe again – who desperately want something new.” He went on to insist he’s the most electable of the Democratic field.
He closed with an impassioned call to aspire to something better than the red-blue divide in politics. “This is the moment, this is our time, and if you will stand with me in seven days …we will change the course of history.”
– CNN's Jessica Yellin