From NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan
DES MOINES, IA -- Obama likes to use the word "definition of madness" to describe how his opponents claim they can change Washington.
But the term could also describe Obama's last pitch to voters at the food court at Kaleidoscope, a multi-story shopping center, just blocks from Polk Convention Center here. Entering through a side entrance with his wife Michelle, Obama was immediately mobbed by the print journalists, cameras, and photographers -- but also the servers behind the counter at the Maid Rite and Subway Shops and Iowans of every stripe (young, old, middle aged, even the owner of the Panda West Chinese Restaurant came running out to shake the senator's hands).
As he shook hands, posed for pictures and signed scraps of paper, campaign signs, and even a copy of his book, Obama unabashedly asked for everyone's vote. "Are you caucusing for me? I want you caucusing for me," Obama told the crowd as he shook hand after hand. Most said yes and some said no.
Kelli Schaefer, a 28-years-old from Altoona, got the most time with the senator, though. She was undecided. Obama pitched her with a mini-version of his stump speech, but after a few minutes Schaefer was still unconvinced. "I'm really looking for the best person who can help the middle class," she told Obama.
"I'm just going to go in undecided," she told reporters later. When asked if she was just going to go with the group that had the most supporters, she denied saying it wasn't about just picking a winner.
And if Iowans like to ask questions, they were throwing as many at the senator as the press normally does. After Obama greeted a little boy, his dad asked who Obama would appoint to the Supreme Court. "Someone who also has life experience," Obama said. Another voter asked about his tax policies. One woman, a nurse, told the senator she was caucusing for him and said he needed to do more to increase the pay that nurses receive. Quick on his feet, Obama threw back, "We also need to increase the pay for nursing professors, that's part of the reason we have a shortage." The woman was duly impressed.
Reporters tried to get some questions in, too, but mostly got monosyllabic answers back from senator.
How do you feel today, senator? "Good," he said.
Another question: "What do you want to say to Iowans?"
Obama: "I love Iowa."
But he did pause to riff on his friend, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. A local Boston station asked Obama if he could pull off a Patrick-like win. Obama laughed and said, "I was elected to the Senate first."
*** UPDATE *** Obama also had a moment similar to Bill and Hillary Clinton a few weeks ago. "Mr. Obama, can you sign this for me?" a man said pushing a dollar bill at Obama.
"I can't sign dollar bills," Obama told him. "It's against the law and I've got all these federal officials here. They'd arrest me. I'd sign something else though, if you can find a piece of paper."
Obama eventually signed a piece of campaign lit for the man. When Bill and Hillary were at a Hy-vee grocery store a in Des Moines, Hillary, llike Obama turned down a request to sign the bill. But Bill had signed it, laughing "You know this is illegal right."