From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
DES MOINES, Iowa -- The end is the beginning.
With just four days to go until America elects the next president, Obama returned to the state that launched his once unlikely bid for the White House.
In his speech here, he also hailed the John McCain of the 2000 elections and suggested his rival had modified his principles to try to win this time around.
Several polls show the Democratic nominee with a double-digit lead over McCain in the Hawkeye State, where his big win in the January caucus helped set him on the course to win the nomination. His last visit to this city was May 20. Today, as he did then, Obama thanked his supporters -- saying he would "always be grateful" to the people of Iowa -- and told them they started a movement that has changed the political landscape.
"We began in the depths of winter nearly two years ago, on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois. Our first stop was Cedar Rapids, then we came to Des Moines and then we went to Waterloo. It was cold at every stop. It was 7, 8 degrees then," he said as the crowd basked in the sun of a 70-degree day here."
He went on to say that while at the beginning, he had faced a steep climb to win the nomination, he believed that the people of America and the people of Iowa were ready for something new.
"On the day of the Iowa caucus, my faith in the American people was vindicated and what you started here in Iowa has swept the nation," he said. "We're seeing the same turnout. We're are seeing the same people going and getting line, volunteers, people participating, a whole new way of doing democracy started right here in Iowa and it is all across the country now."
Obama's success in winning in this nearly all-white state helped him begin to solidify his support among many black voters, who had previously though he had no chance of winning the nation's highest office because of his race.
The McCain campaign took issue with Obama's use of the word "vindicated."
"Hardworking families need a president whose faith in the American people is not predicated on his own election," said spokesman Tucker Bounds in an email. "At a time of mounting economic and foreign policy challenges, this country needs a president like John McCain who is experienced and tested -- and has proven his selfless faith in the American people."
The speech before a crowd of about 25,000 at a park downtown was largely a repeat of the closing argument Obama has been giving across the battleground states of Ohio, Virginia, and Florida this week. But it included a tough criticism of McCain, casting him as a man who has changed since his first run for the White House.
"A couple of elections ago, there was a presidential candidate who decried this kind of politics and condemned these kind of tactics, and I admired him for it. He said, "I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land." Obama began. "Those words were spoken eight years ago by my opponent, John McCain. But the high road didn't lead him to the White House then, so this time, he decided to take a different route."
The Illinois senator, who was headed home to Chicago to spend part of Halloween with this daughters before heading to a rally in Indiana, predicted more "slash and burn" attacks from this opponent in the final days and said McCain had called him every name in the book, "everything but a child of God" because he was short on ideas.
As he has done all week and throughout his campaign, Obama talked about the need to get past the ideological debates that divide people -- this time using the idea that ideas are not Republican or Democrat -- to respond to a new McCain ad that uses Obama's own words.
"Just this morning, the McCain campaign put out an interesting ad. They put out an ad that showed me praising John McCain and Sen. Lieberman for their work on global warming -- as if there's something wrong with acknowledging when an opponent's said or done something that makes sense," he said incredulously. "I mean, I don't know exactly what they were thinking, but I do that all the time. I'm happy to give -- on torture, I think, John McCain has done the right thing. I think we need more of that attitude in Washington. We need more civility in Washington."