Obama's Triumphant Iowa Return
By Shailagh Murray
DES MOINES -- Sen. Barack Obama returned here Tuesday night to give full credit to Iowa for the dividends he has reaped from his improbable win in the Jan. 3 caucuses.
Speaking at a downtown rally, Obama paid tribute to Sen. Hillary Clinton as "one of the most formidable candidates to ever run for this office," and took care not to claim that his battle against her was over. "You have put us within reach of the Democratic nomination for president of the United States," he said. "It is good to be back in Iowa."
For the most part Obama ignored his lopsided loss to Clinton in Kentucky and instead focused on Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee. "This year's Republican primary was a contest to see which candidate could out-Bush the other, and that is the contest John McCain won," Obama said.
The Illinois senator went on to win 31 contests, but none carried the weight of Iowa, Obama's second home for the first 11 months of his presidential campaign. Beating former senator John Edwards and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton there altered the course of the race, establishing Obama as Clinton's chief rival -- the only candidate with the message, organizational muscle and financial resources to challenge her front-runner status.
"Fifteen months ago, in the depths of winter, it was in this great state where we took the first steps of an unlikely journey to change America," Obama told the Des Moines crowd.
"The skeptics predicted we wouldn't get very far. The cynics dismissed us as a lot of hype and a little too much hope. And by the fall, the pundits in Washington had all but counted us out. But the people of Iowa had a different idea."
The campaign chose to return to Iowa to commemorate Obama's first and most important victory, in the state's caucuses in January, on the night that he secured a majority of pledged delegates.
The benchmark is important but symbolic, representing the Obama campaign's view that he has a secured a virtual lock on the nomination.
"We knew this was likely to be the night," said David Axelrod, Obama's chief political adviser. "What better place to mark it than the place it all began?"
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