In final rally of 2012, Obama looks back at 2008

President Obama, at a rally in Des Moines on Monday night, asks Iowans once more to help him win the White House.
(Jewell Samad / AFP/Getty Images)
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DES MOINES — In the end, President Obama came back to Iowa to look for one more lift.

With a rally in Des Moines, filling the streets behind the building that four years ago housed his Iowa caucus headquarters, President Obama wrapped up his last campaign blitz and asked Iowans again for help.

The speech was as much about 2008 as 2012, laden with nostalgia and appeals to ideals that captured his supporters when he was still a senator from Illinois. At one point a tear rolled down his cheek as he spoke.

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“I’ve come back to Iowa one more time to ask for your vote,” Obama told the estimated 20,000 people standing under the dark sky. “I came back to ask you to help us finish what we started because this is where our movement for change began.”

Obama was joined by First Lady Michelle Obama, a pairing the campaign rarely allowed to happen. The first lady was too popular a draw on her own. But this was the end, and they were there to say thank you, they both said.

Obama’s last pitch was tailored to the state that gave him his first big win — in the Iowa caucuses — and powered his bid for the 2008 Democratic nomination.

“You taught me how to bet on hope,” he said.

Today, Iowa isn’t as sold on Obama. Polls show the race virtually tied. “Hope” and “Change” seem like distant campaign slogans. But the new one, “Forward,” has not replaced them. Obama’s last stop before election day was a steady, not-subtle reminder of the last campaign.

Much of the speech could have been delivered four years ago. The president came on stage to his 2008 campaign theme song — U2’s “City of Blinding Lights.” He never mentioned the name of his current GOP rival, Mitt Romney. He ended his remarks with a long, winding retelling of one of the best-known parables of 2008 — the story of the South Carolina woman who taught a young, but tired, senator and candidate how to chant, “Fired up! Ready to go!”

The Obama campaign called Edith Childs to see if she could come to Des Moines to lead the campaign cry on Monday night. But Childs declined.


“She said, ‘I’d love to see you. But I think we can still win North Carolina,’ ” Obama said. “ ‘I don’t have time just to be talking about it. I’ve got to knock on some doors. I’m still fired up, but I got work to do!’ ”

“And that shows you, what one voice can do,” Obama said, his voice briefly giving out -- whether from emotion or strain of use, it wasn’t clear.

Twitter: @khennessey