Drawing a line in the sand, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, made an impassioned "closing argument" speech in Des Moines today, one week ahead of the Iowa caucus. His new stump speech has a big close: "This is our time. This is our moment!" Obama implored as the crowd cheered.
"And if you will stand with me in seven days — if you will stand for change so that our children have the same chance that somebody gave us; if you'll stand to keep the American dream alive for those who still hunger for opportunity and thirst for justice; if you're ready to stop settling for what the cynics tell you you must accept, and finally reach for what you know is possible, then we will win this caucus, we will win this election."
Those words from the senator from Illinois brought the packed auditorium to its feet.
Obama did not mention any of his opponents by name, but the references to Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, were obvious.
"I don't need any lectures on how to bring about change, because I haven't just talked about it on the campaign trail. I've fought for change all my life," Obama said. "There's no shortage of anger and bluster and bitter partisanship out there. We don't need more heat. We need more light," he added, a riff on Clinton's "turn up the heat" slogan.
Obama zoned in on the Clinton's main argument: that she is the candidate of experience and change. "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."
Responding to the criticism leveled by both Clintons about his level of experience, Obama quoted the former president's comments from his own presidential run in 1992 in which he said, "'You can have the right kind of experience and the wrong kind of experience. Mine is rooted in the real lives of real people, and it will bring real results if we have the courage to change'. I believe deeply in those words," Obama told the crowd. "But they are not mine. They were Bill Clinton's in 1992, when Washington insiders questioned his readiness to lead."
Obama says his experience was gained from living, traveling and having a family overseas -- and that experience gave him the understanding to oppose the war in Iraq.
"The real gamble in this election is playing the same Washington game with the same Washington players and expecting a different result. And that's a risk we can't take. Not this year. Not when the stakes are this high," Obama said, an obvious play on Bill Clinton's assertion that voting for Obama would be a "roll of the dice."
Obama blasted the "Washington establishment" for "fighting back with everything it has -- with attack ads and insults; with distractions and dishonesty; with millions of dollars from outside groups and undisclosed donors," another jab at his top opponents, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.
Obama claims that he has run a positive campaign "that pointed out real differences and rejected the politics of slash and burn."
Obama closed by saying, "In the end, the argument that's going on between the candidates in the last seven days is not just about the meaning of change. It's about the meaning of hope. Some of my opponents appear scornful of the word; they think it speaks of naivete, passivity and wishful thinking. But that's not what hope is. Hope is not blind optimism. "
The Clinton campaign was quick to respond to Obama's argument. "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," Clinton Communications Director Phil Singer said. "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."
And another rival for the nomination, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards is planning his own message of change scheduled for a speech tomorrow in Dubuque. His campaign released an excerpt from his prepared remarks:
"Why on earth would we expect the corporate powers and their lobbyists – who make billions by selling out the middle class – to just give up just because we ask nicely? Nobody who takes their money and defends the broken system is going to bring change. And, unfortunately, nobody who thinks we can just sit down and talk them into compromise is going to bring change either. Compromise and conciliation is the academic theory of change. It just doesn't work in the real world. Fighting for conviction is the historic reality of change."