President Barack Obama greets supporters at a campaign event at Washington Park in Dubuque, Iowa on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Pablo Martinez Monsivais

DUBUQUE — With the hours dwindling before Election Day, President Barack Obama sought to make the case that he still is the agent of change in the 2012 race, arguing he’s delivered it in Iraq, Afghanistan, with tax cuts and health care.

“I know what change looks like because I’ve fought for it. I’ve delivered it, and I’ve got the scars to prove it,” a hoarse-sounding president told an estimated 5,000 people who had gathered Saturday night at a downtown park in the Mississippi River town.

The president, who ran as the change candidate four years ago, has seen Republican Mitt Romney try to wrest that title, as he criticizes Obama’s performance on the economy and tries to make the case that four more years would offer the same thing as the last four.

But the president said what Romney — “a very talented salesman,” he called him — offered isn’t change, but a rehash of failed conservative economic policies. And he said a balanced approach to lowering the deficit and investments in education and other policies that put the middle class first are his priorities.

He also invoked former President Bill Clinton, linking his economic policies to his own.

“We know what works. We know what doesn’t,” the president said.

Obama got a dose of good news Saturday night. The Des Moines Register released a poll that said he leads by 5 points in Iowa, 47 percent to 42 percent.

The president’s visit followed up a stop by Romney, who was at Dubuque’s airport for a rally a few hours earlier, a rare same-city, same-day appearance for the two candidates.

By the time Obama arrived, night began to fall on the park, where people had waited for hours in a chilled November air.

Dana Vincent of Hanover, Ill., said she was confident of an Obama win Tuesday. “I’m not nervous at all,” she said, praising the president’s first term.

“I think he’s done a great job,” she said. She added he could have done more if it hadn’t been for congressional Republicans.

She and others also rejected the idea there’s less enthusiasm for the president than there was four years ago. “I think it’s just the opposite,” Tina Stillmunkes of Dubuque said.

There also was no quarter given to Romney in the crowd. “He’s a phony,” said Peggy English of Dyersville. “He changes his position on every single issue three times, five times. He thinks we’re stupid.”

Obama and Romney are striving to win Iowa’s six electoral votes, and they’re closing out the campaign by spending plenty of time in the state. In addition to their stops Saturday, Romney will be in Des Moines today and the president will close out his campaign with a rally there Monday.

This was the third state where the president campaigned Saturday, going from Ohio to Wisconsin, then Iowa. After the 23-minute speech in Dubuque, he was headed to his fourth state of the day, Virginia.

The president was joined in Dubuque by actress Kate Walsh, who was in Bettendorf earlier in the day, as well as John Mellencamp, who performed for a little more than a half-hour, playing a half-dozen songs, including “Rain on the Scarecrow” and “Pink Houses.”

As it has in its other campaigns, the Obama camp continued to push supporters to vote early, even though the time for that is dwindling. A local volunteer urged people to do so Monday. “It’s the most American thing we can do,” he said.