Obama in Iowa: Gloves Off!

"If you think that we've got to do things fundamentally differently, restore a sense of trust in out government, and have greater transparency--then I might be your guy," Obama said.

Restoring America's Reputation Abroad

Obama presents himself as the one candidate -- partly because of his international background, who can repair America's image abroad. "I think I can present a new foreign policy and a new way of doing business that the world will respond to," he said.

Critics disagree and believe Obama is naive for saying that he would meet with the leaders of Iran and North Korea without preconditions. Obama discounts his critics, blaming Bush and Cheney for having "shifted the [foreign policy] debate in a profoundly damaging way."

"We're still operating under an old model, we don't recognize the new threats of the 21st century" Obama said. "How the world perceives us will have a great deal of influence on how safe we are."

While Obama acknowledges that violence has decreased in Iraq, he believes the surge has failed to create the space for Iraqis to make political progress. He argues that it is in the interest of national security to start withdrawing US troops.

"If we cannot execute an intelligent, thoughtful exit strategy, and the Iraqi government cannot respond in an effective, positive way, over the course of the next two years to end our occupation in Iraq, then we may be looking at a decade-or two decade long stay in Iraq," he said. "And that, I believe, would be disastrous for our long-term national security."

Iowans' 'Extraordinary Privilege'

While Obama is leading in Iowa, he is showing no signs of relaxing. According to the most recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, 30 percent of Iowans support Obama, 26 percent support Clinton, and 22 percent support Edwards. Obama continues to press hard against Clinton, reach out across party lines, and convince Iowans of just how important their votes will be.

"Those of you who live in Iowa, you have this extraordinary privilege," Obama told a crowd gathered in a school in Western Iowa. "You are going to decide, more than probably any other American who the next president is going to be, who the next leader of the free world is going to be--So I hope all of you decide to take advantage of this opportunity."

Citing the compressed primary calendar and thus the increased influence of early states, Obama recognizes the importance of winning Iowa. "I think if you don't do well in Iowa, it's going to be hard to make up for it later," he said.

However, he believes that Clinton is under more pressure to carry Iowa because of her front-runner status and her portrayal in the media as inevitable. "The overwhelming favorite who has been touted as inevitable over the last six months better win Iowa," Obama said. "Don't you think?"

Obama is also counting on some Republicans to help him carry Iowa. Which is why he has been spending time campaigning in the rural, more conservative, Western Iowa.

"We got Democrats and Independents and yes we even have some Republicans," Obama said to a crowd in Dunlap, Iowa. "I know this because when I'm shaking hands afterwards they whisper to me. They say 'Barack, I'm a Republican, but I support you.' And I say 'thank you, why are you whispering?'"

Winning Republican votes is just one way Obama aims to set himself apart from Clinton. As the Caucuses near, his offensive against Clinton will likely only heat up more, in hopes of knocking the "inevitable" candidate down in Iowa.

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