In their final rally of the White House race, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama campaigned in Des Moines late Monday night. Both spoke nostalgically about the president&rsquo;s start in iowa where the Illinoisan captured the 2008 Democratic caucuses. <span style="font-size: xx-small;"><em>Daily Times Herald photo by Douglas Burns</em></span>
In their final rally of the White House race, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama campaigned in Des Moines late Monday night. Both spoke nostalgically about the president’s start in iowa where the Illinoisan captured the 2008 Democratic caucuses. Daily Times Herald photo by Douglas Burns
Tuesday, November 6, 2012

DES MOINES — Following an animated speech, both forward-looking and nostalgic, President Barack Obama Monday scanned an estimated crowd of 20,000 in downtown Des Moines, and confidently patted the side of the official podium, a gesture closing the book on whirlwind of campaigning — which started in February 2007 and earned Iowa a reputation as the launching pad for Obama’s historic presidency.

Regardless of the results tonight, Obama will never hold another presidential campaign rally for himself. As presidents are limited to two terms, the Des Moines event, which finished just after 11 p.m., is the final one of Obama’s final campaign.

“After all the months of campaigning, after all the rallies, after the millions of dollars of ads, it all comes down to you,” Obama said.  “It’s out of my hands now.”

The campaign event featured American music icon Bruce Springsteen — who wrote a campaign anthem for the president based on Obama’s slogan of “forward.” First Lady Michelle Obama introduced her husband in a speech that recalled early days on the campaign trail in the last cycle as Iowans were just starting to take the measure of the barrier-breaking president.

“I am so thrilled to be here in Iowa tonight because long before most people even knew his name, you all saw what I saw,” Michelle Obama said.

The then-U.S. senator from Illinois captured the Iowa caucuses in 2008 at a time when many veteran political observers believed Hillary Clinton a runaway favorite to secure the Democratic White House nomination.

Iowa has been central in the Obama re-election campaign. The president’s schedule included 21 campaign  events in Iowa. In the last 18 months, Obama spoke with The Daily Times Herald three times, once over the phone, at an event in Boone and in a session in the Oval Office. The president carried both Iowa and Carroll County in the 2008 general election.

At the Monday rally, Obama said he would work to craft fiscal compromises with Congress in a second term. But there are issues on which the president said he won’t bend, choices that he sees as more surrender that compromise.

“We’ll cut out spending we don’t need,” Obama said. “But as long as I’m president, we’re not going to turn Medicare into a voucher just to pay for another millionaire’s tax cut. We’re not going to kick a kid off of Head Start just to pay for a millionaire’s tax cut.”

Obama used the speech, at an outdoor venue in Des Moines’ East Village, as a fiery promotion of his record over the past four years. In 2008, Obama said, the United Stated was in the middle of two wars and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

“Today, our businesses have created nearly five and a half million new jobs,” Obama said. “The American auto industry is back.  Home values are on the rise. We’re less dependent on foreign oil than any time in the last 20 years. We’ve doubled the production of clean energy.  Because of the service and sacrifice of our brave men and women in uniform, the war in Iraq is over. The war in Afghanistan is ending. al-Qaida is on the run. Osama bin Laden is dead.”

The president said his chief motivating influence is concern for middle-class families.

“The folks at the top in this country, it turns out they don’t need another champion in Washington,” Obama said.  “They’ll always have a seat at the table.  They’ll always have access and influence.  The people who need a champion are the Americans whose letters I read late at night after a long day in the office; the men and women I meet on the campaign trail every day.”

Obama said he’s helped show Americans what real change looks like.

“We’ve got the scars to prove it,” Obama said. “I’ve got the gray hair to show it.  I wasn’t this gray when I first showed up in Iowa.”

But there’s more to do, the president said, in making his final appeal for votes.

“As long as there’s a single American who wants a job but can’t find one, as long as there are families working harder but still falling behind, as long as there’s a child anywhere in Des Moines, anywhere in Iowa, anywhere in this country languishing in poverty, barred from opportunity — our work isn’t done,” Obama said.

In interview with the Daily Times Herald, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said credit for prevailing strong commodity prices, land values and a generally favorable farm economy, rests primarily with producers.

But the president deserves significant credit as well, said Vilsack, a former two-term governor of Iowa.

“When this president came into office he created, in essence, in a new framework for reviving rural economies,” Vilsack said.

Obama directed the agriculture department to create a strategic approach to trade with resulting burgeoning figures for American farms.

“We’ve expanded and increased agricultural trade to a record level,” Vilsack said.

Quoting USDA figures, The Bioenergysite.com reports that exports of U.S. food and agricultural products are expected to reach $143.5 billion in fiscal 2013, well above the record set in 2011. Since 2009, U.S. agricultural exports have made gains of 50 percent, reports the bioenergysite.com

The Obama administration has negotiated successful trade pacts and is reaching out to Southeast Asia for more partnerships.

“I think there is some legitimate reason for saying that the president deserves some credit, by no means all the credit,” Vilsack said.

Near the end of his speech, Obama delighted in telling the story of the Greenwood, S.C., councilwoman, Edith Childs, whose “fired up!” chant – followed by the people around her responding, “ready to go,” became a signature feature of the Obama campaign in 2008, used at rallies, strikingly at a Jefferson Jackson Day Dinner in Des Moines, and at other events to inspire Obama supporters. The president said he recalls the power of Childs’ voice the first time he heard her imploring South Carolinians to fight for their futures

“One voice can change a room,” Obama said.  “And if it can change a room, it can change a city.  And if it can change a city, it can change a state.  And if it can change a state, it can change a nation. And if it can change a nation, it can change the world.”