WEBSTER CITY, Iowa – Even if he can't be the first choice of some participants in the Iowa caucuses, Sen. Barack Obama is starting to make a pitch for being their second choice.
In a new wrinkle amid his post-holiday campaigning, Obama is making an overt appeal to those supporting other candidates, such as Sens. Joseph Biden and Chris Dodd, who may not be viable in all precincts.
Under Iowa caucus rules for Democrats, candidates must receive support from at least 15 percent in a precinct to be deemed viable. If a candidate does not receive that much, supporters may back another candidate or remain uncommitted.
At a stop in Webster City, Iowa, where the crowd listened to Christmas music before he arrived, Obama said he would like voters to think of him, if they are "looking for a second choice."
He also reflected on when he announced his presidential bid in February on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield.
"My bet was that if we presented a campaign of change, then the American people would respond," Obama said. "Here we are 10 months later, and we are on the verge of winning Iowa."
But Obama, who is expected to make a formal speech Thursday morning in Des Moines that is being billed as the debut of his closing argument, said he expects other campaigns to try to plant "seeds of doubt" about his candidacy.
"Vote your hopes," he said. "Don't vote your fears."
In reciting what he called his "closing case," Obama suggested he is the most capable of beating a Republican in the general election.
"If you are serious about change, then you can't look to the same folks doing the same things and expect something different," he said.
Although he didn't mention former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards by name, Obama did refer to advertising spending in Iowa by outside advocacy groups on his behalf.
"These are the candidates who say they are about change, they're about reforming the system," Obama said. "But are accepting millions of dollars of undisclosed money."
Obama urged the roughly 200 people in a community center gymnasium that they should strive for dramatic change in how the nation is run.
"We are now seven days away from being able to stand up and change our world," he said. "Seven days and we will have the chance to trigger the kind of change that will secure the future of the next generation. If you stand up, if you believe, if you are not willing to settle for the same old stuff and actually will to reach for what's possible, then I guarantee you we will not just win an election, we will transform the country."
Dorothy Hayes, a retired real estate sales agent from Webster City who watched Obama, said she likely would not decide who to support until caucus night.
"I'm not positive yet," she said. "I like all the Democratic candidates, but I kind of prefer Obama."
Obama said he felt rested and ready for the final days of campaigning before the caucuses.
"I hope Santa brought everything you wanted," Obama said. "In addition to winning the Iowa caucuses, I asked for eight hours sleep, which I got."