Obama, Clinton Make Last Rounds in Iowa
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
The assassination of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto cast a shadow over the presidential campaign in this country. Candidates from both parties interrupted their frantic dash toward the Iowa causes to react. When the news came, Democrat Barack Obama was just about to present what's been called his closing argument in Iowa.
NPR's David Greene reports.
DAVID GREENE: As Barack Obama began speaking in downtown Des Moines, his campaign was handing advance copies of his speech to reporters, this part was not in the text.
Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, presidential candidate): Before I start the speech that I was intending, I want to, obviously, state how shocked and saddened we all are with the death of former prime minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto.
GREENE: Echoing many of his rival candidates, Obama said the U.S. should stand for democracy in Pakistan. Obama then moved to the message he had planned for the day, which was why Iowan should support a young U.S. senator with little experience on the national stage. Obama called on the memory of Martin Luther King Jr.
Sen. OBAMA: I chose to run in this election, at this moment, because of what Dr. King called the fierce urgency of now. Because we are at a defining moment in our history.
GREENE: It's a moment, he argued, when the nation can't wait for universal health care or for an end to the war in Iraq. Obama said other candidates have talked about change as he has.
Sen. OBAMA: But you can't at once argue that you're the master of a broken system in Washington and then offer yourself as the person to change it.
GREENE: If he didn't mention Hillary Clinton by name, he left no doubt about whom he had in mind. And he didn't hesitate to borrow words from her husband.
Sen. OBAMA: The truth is, you can have the right kind of experience and the wrong kind of experience. And mine is rooted in the real lives of real people and it will bring real results if we just have the courage to change. And I believe deeply in those words. But you know what? They're not mine. They were Bill Clinton's in 1992, when Washington insiders questioned his readiness to lead.
GREENE: In response to Obama's speech, Hillary Clinton's campaign accused him of going negative in the final days of campaigning in Iowa. Obama said he's trying to attract support from independent voters and Republicans. And after Obama finished, his campaign decided to play a country song by Brooks and Dunn that George W. Bush used in 2004.
(Sound bite of song "Only in America")
Mr. RONNIE DUNN (Vocalist, Brooks & Dunn): (Singing) Newlyweds in the back of the limousine.
GREENE: And there were registered Republicans in the audience, like Brenda Shuman(ph), who said Obama doesn't have her vote yet.
Ms. BRENDA SHUMAN (Iowa Resident): No, I'm not definitely going to caucus for him.
GREENE: She's been volunteering for another Democrat, Bill Richardson. She said she might wind up with Obama, but she'll begin on caucus night backing Richardson.
Ms. SHUMAN: Because I think Richardson is better qualified. He has the experience and the track record. But Obama, I, you know, I was, like I said, he would be a second choice.
GREENE: She and her husband, Carl(ph), are in the process of reregistering as Democrats. Carl Shuman says he likes the field better.
Mr. CARL SHUMAN (Iowa Resident): I like all the Democrats. I hate to see any of them left behind. And it's really tough, you know, when you like them all. I guess, but it gets down to me as who is the most electable. And I'll tell you, if my wife wasn't - and told because she's a precinct captain with Richardson.
GREENE: Let's just say he's leaning Obama's way. In the final week of the Iowa campaign, the candidates aren't the only ones feeling the pressure.
David Greene, NPR News, Des Moines.