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Obama makes his closing argument

From NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan
DES MOINES, IA -- To a packed room here filled with supporters and the national media, Obama laid out the closing arguments for why he should be president of the United States, basing his candidacy in a deep, personal faith for a better America born from his own personal story.

"The truth is, 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. But they are not mine. They were Bill Clinton's in 1992, when Washington insiders questioned his readiness to lead," Obama told the crowd to laughs and cheers.

Saying that the change he provides is what "Washington needs now," Obama held his opponents' feet to the fire as he ran through a litany of distinctions or attacks -- nine by our count -- on why he should be chosen to be the next president of the United States over Sens. Edwards or Clinton, although he didn't mention those rivals by name. 

Turning Clinton's "turn up the heat" words from November's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner against her, 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."

Obama also seemed to whack Edwards for not acting to reduce the power of lobbyists and special interest influence while he was a senator in Washington. "There are others in this race who say that this kind of change sounds good, but that I'm not angry or confrontational enough to get it done... I'm the only candidate in this race who hasn't just talked about taking power away from lobbyists; I've actually done it. So if you want to know what kind of choices we'll make as President, you should take a look at the choices we made when we had the chance to bring about change that wasn't easy or convenient."

Returning to an argument raised by Democrats in the 2004 election against President Bush, Obama also appeared to imply that his fellow Democrats were using GOP scare tactics to dissuade Americans from voting for him. "We can't afford the same politics of fear that tells Democrats that the only way to look tough on national security is to talk, act, and vote like George Bush Republicans; that invokes 9/11 as a way to scare up votes instead of a challenge that should unite all Americans to defeat our real enemies."

Previewing his speech yesterday, Obama said that he "wouldn't over-hype it," and for the journalists who follow him on a daily basis, there was little new to his arguments or his attacks. However, what he did do seven days before the Iowa caucuses was to lay bare his case to be president, addressing both what he deems his strengths and perceived weaknesses.

And in making that case, he provided Iowans a clear choice between himself and Hillary Clinton -- to either choose someone who can create a fundamental change in Washington  versus a more seasoned political candidate who knows the realities of governing and can use those years of experience to create a vision for a better future.

Obama argued that a real shift in the political landscape cannot occur if one chooses the latter option. "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. You can't fall in line behind the conventional thinking on issues as profound as war and offer yourself as the leader who is best prepared to chart a new and better course for America," he said.