DUNLAP, Iowa -- Standing atop a stage in a livestock auction barn, Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton likened the experience to her quest to woo undecided voters in the closing days before Iowa's pivotal caucuses.
"I've been to cattle barns before and sales before, in Arkansas, but I've never felt like I was the one that was being bid on," Clinton told a crowd in western Iowa. "I know you're going to inspect me. You can look inside my mouth if you want. I hope by the end of my time with you I can make the case for my candidacy and to ask you to consider caucusing for me."
The former first lady made her comments during the launch of a five-day campaign blitz across Iowa less than three weeks before the state's January 3 caucuses. Buoyed by the endorsement of the state's largest newspaper, Clinton said she "could not be more pumped up" and that her campaign had regained its momentum after several shaky weeks.
The endorsement in Sunday's Des Moines Register gave a huge lift to the Clinton team as it fights to stem the surging momentum of her lead rival, Barack Obama. Polls have shown a tight three-way contest between Clinton, Obama and John Edwards in Iowa with Obama leading slightly in some surveys. Meanwhile, Clinton's once formidable lead in other early state polls like New Hampshire and South Carolina has also appeared to vanish.
To push back, the New York senator and a team of surrogates and supporters were fanning out across the Iowa to host events in the state's 99 counties during the last full week before the campaigns pause to observe Christmas.
Clinton herself was hopping from stop to stop on a "Hilli-copter" to reach as many geographic regions of the ice-crusted state as possible.
Among supporters making an appearance was Bob Kerrey, the former Nebraska senator and governor whose borders Iowa.
Kerrey, who ran briefly for the Democratic nomination in 1992 against Bill Clinton, said he was endorsing Hillary Clinton "enthusiastically and unequivocally.
"She inspires my confidence. The question is, does she inspire your confidence?" Kerrey asked.
Clinton also unveiled a retooled stump speech Sunday that stressed her record of working for change in public policy throughout her career as a lawyer and later as first lady and a senator.
Hillary is the candidate for change? Really?
I guess that's true. Her 11th hour scramble to paint herself as a fresh choice is certainly a change in her strategy.
I think it may be too late for that.
Barack Obama has been running on the "change" factor since he began his campaign.
Bottom line: Democrat voters have looked in Hillary's mouth and she hasn't passed the inspection.