President Obama ended his campaign where it all began – in the swing state of Iowa.
The president wrapped up his 2012 bid in Des Moines on Monday night, delivering remarks near the site of his first Iowa campaign headquarters. His victory at the 2008 Iowa caucuses helped propel him past Hillary Clinton to win Democratic nomination and, ultimately, the White House. That piece of nostalgia was not lost on Obama, who thanked Iowans and asked for their vote, just one more time.
”Iowa, in 2008 your voice changed the world,” an emotional Obama declared in his swan song speech, at times wiping tears away from his eyes. “After all that we’ve fought through together, we cannot give up on change now.”
The decision to end the campaign here was as much symbolic as it was strategic. With a near deadlocked race on a national level, neither candidate was taking Iowa—and its six Electoral College votes—for granted. Democrats appear to be in the lead with early voters, but the state is very much up for grabs.
Republican nominee Mitt Romney swung through the area on Sunday, urging voters to choose “change” in the voting booths.
“Talk is cheap. But a record is real and it’s earned with real effort,” Romney told a crowd of more than 4,000 supporters in Des Moines on Sunday morning. “Change—you can’t measure change in speeches. You measure change in achievements.”
Obama won the Hawkeye state in 2008 against Sen. John McCain by 10 percentage points. But the state’s tricky to predict: It went for George W. Bush in 2004 and Al Gore in 2000.
This time around, recent polls suggest it will most likely be tighter race. The latest Des Moines Register poll released on Saturday shows Obama with a slight edge over Romney, 47% to 42%.
As of Monday, Nate Silver of The New York Times forecast Obama coming away with 85% of the vote in Iowa.
According to the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls, Obama leads Romney in Iowa by six points among likely voters, 50% to 44%, a slight increase for Romney from October numbers.
The former Massachusetts governor received an additional boost from The Des Moines Register’s endorsement for president. That slight against Team Obama prompted former President Clinton to write a counter op-ed in Sunday’s edition of the newspaper.
The paper’s support of Romney marks a notable shift in attitude; it’s taken some time for Iowans to warm up to the GOP nominee. During the primaries, ultra conservative Rick Santorum narrowly pulled out a win at the Iowa caucuses – a sign of the growing conservative movement rooted in GOP-saturated western Iowa.
On Nov. 6, voters will confront conservative values on the ballot, and not just in their choice of presidential candidates. Voters will decide whether or not to remove Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins from the bench. Along with six other justices, he voted to overturn the gay marriage ban in 2009, which made Iowa the third state to legally uphold marriage equality. In 2010, Christian conservatives successfully launched a campaign to unseat three of the judges. Now it’s Wiggins turn, and surveys indicate there’s backlash to the backlash, which may save his job.
Polls in Iowa close at 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT.