Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign took on the appearance of a family business as she headed into the final week of the race for Iowa's leadoff precinct caucuses, driving home to activists the stakes in those caucuses and her view that she's ready for the job.
"Next week the eyes of the country and the world will be on Iowa, the world will be holding its breath," said Clinton. "We know that this decision you face is so important, you are picking a president and there isn't any more significant decision for you to make as a citizen."
Clinton opened her campaign day Thursday with a rally before about 300 people jammed into a high school in western Iowa.
She joked about a landing at a foggy airport that delayed her arrival by half and hour.
"We weren't sure we were going to be able to land," said Clinton. "Right after we landed they closed the airport again. I think that's a good omen."
Most polls have shown Clinton in a very tight and fluid race with rivals John Edwards and Barack Obama, with the stakes very high in next week's caucuses. Clinton has led in national polls but many strategists argue that a win in Iowa could give her the momentum to seal the nomination.
She was working to close the sale in the final week, and leaving nothing to chance. Daughter Chelsea Clinton was at her side as she stumped through a series of stops in western Iowa, and her husband, former President Clinton, kept his own campaign schedule in the state. It was the first time all three were in the state together, the campaign said.
Clinton's campaign announced that the New York senator and former first lady will make her final case to Iowans in a two-minute televised appearance on Jan. 2 on the eve of the caucuses. The taped message will air on every evening newscast throughout the state.
Standing between two shiny trucks at the Denison Fire Department later in the day, Clinton pounded on the theme that she's prepared to make the big changes America needs, making her case to about 400 activists jammed into the room.
"I am not running for president to put a Band-Aid on the problems facing America," Clinton said. "I am running for president to solve the problems facing America."
She pointed to her history as a change agent, and told activists it's crunch time and "it is time to pick a president."
"If you want to look at the change I would make, look at the change I have made," said Clinton. "I know from a lifetime working to make change."
Clinton wrapped up her day with a noisy rally before about 300 activists in a middle school gymnasium in Guthrie Center, telling them the caucuses are a crucial turning point in the campaign.
"The stakes could not be higher," she said. "It's not just for me, it's for you and your families, particularly your children and grandchildren, and the kind of future you want for them. Our country really needs you to go."
On Thursday, Clinton also brought along Mark Nicholson, an apple farmer from upstate New York to cement her ties to rural Iowa.
"We weren't used to getting a lot of attention from politicians in New York," Nicholson said. "Seven years later, it's amazing how far we've come."
Clinton hammered home her electability, and described for activists the type of general election campaign she'd run.
"I will wage a campaign that stands for our values and our country's future," she argued, warning that she's capable of standing up to what will certainly be a withering assault from Republicans.
"The Republicans have been after me for 16 years and I'm still here," said Clinton.
With the assassination of a world leader as a backdrop, Clinton was reminding activists of her experience and familiarity with the White House and the challenges facing the next president.
"We know how important it is, the decision that will start here in Iowa in one week, picking a president that is ready on day one to deal with the myriad of problems" facing that next president, said Clinton. "Our next president will be sworn in on Jan. 20, 2009. Waiting on that president's desk in the oval office will be problems that are incredibly difficult, that present challenges to our leadership in the world, to our moral authority, to our economy, to the kind of society we are and want to be. These are some of the problems we know about."
She said it is inevitable that unexpected problems will confront the country and argued that on the ground experience in the White House is the only way to be prepared for that.
"That's the nature of the job and the world in which we live," she said. "It certainly raises the stakes high for what we expect from our next president."