DAVENPORT, Iowa—President Barack Obama kicked off what he referred to as a "48-hour, fly-around campaign marathon extravaganza" at a rally here Wednesday morning. The trip will take him across the country to states that could very well determine the outcome of the November election.
In the next two days, Obama will visit Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Colorado and Nevada (plus make stops in Los Angeles to tape "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and Chicago to cast his ballot).
But of those states, Obama told the crowd of about 3,500, Iowa would "choose" the outcome of the presidential election. "This is where the movement first began. And Iowa, you will once again choose the path that we take from here," Obama said, standing in front of a red barn with a sign that read "Forward!"
Iowa holds an important place for Obama and his political career: As an underdog candidate to Hillary Clinton during his run for president four years ago, he won the caucuses here and has returned to the state 16 times during his presidency.
"I had to start in Iowa to ask you for your vote," Obama said. "To ask you for your support so we can finish what we started."
Based on the resources spent here, it's clear the Obama campaign looks to Iowa as a key part of the president's re-election effort. Not only has he visited the state many times during his presidency, but he has held more than 20 events here. Although the state is sparsely populated—Iowa offers the presidential victor only seven Electoral College votes—keeping Iowa in Obama's camp shrinks Romney's chances of reaching the 270 votes needed on Election Day and forces him to hedge by spreading his resources elsewhere.
With the exception of former President George W. Bush winning Iowa in 2004, the state has remained a Democratic stronghold for nearly 25 years. Before 1988, Republicans held the state for 20 years. This year, state polls suggest Iowa could go either way.
The timing of Obama's "extravaganza" comes less than two weeks before Election Day and during a period when several states begin early voting. Iowa voters have had access to the polls since Sept. 27, and more states will begin early voting over the next few days.