Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Obama: "Wright flap has 'shaken me up'"

Sen. Barack Obama told CNN on Wednesday the recent uproar over his former pastor's sermons has reminded him of the odds he faces in winning the White House.


Sen. Obama opens up in a one-on-one exclusive interview with Anderson Cooper.

"In some ways, this controversy has actually shaken me up a little bit and gotten me back into remembering that the odds of me getting elected have always been lower than some of the other conventional candidates," the Illinois senator told CNN's Anderson Cooper in an exclusive one-on-one interview.

Obama declined to speculate on whether the controversy surrounding the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's sermons may damage him politically, but said his campaign does best when it doesn't follow the "textbook."

"If I was just running the textbook campaign -- doing the conventional thing -- I probably wasn't going to win because Sen. [Hillary] Clinton was going to be much more capable of doing that than I would be," he said. "We had tremendous success, and I think we were starting to get a little comfortable and conventional right before Texas and Ohio."

The exclusive interview came one day after Obama delivered a speech on race and politics in Philadelphia, during which he denounced some of Wright's comments, but said he could not repudiate the man himself.

On the road with Obama
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"I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother. These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love," Obama said in the speech. Video Watch Obama address the racial divide »

Asked why he didn't denounce the controversial comment when he first heard of them more than a year ago, Obama noted Wright was on the verge of retirement.

"I told him that I profoundly disagreed with his positions. As I said before, he was on, at that stage, on the verge of retirement. ... You make decisions about these issues. And my belief was that given that he was about to retire, that for me to make a political statement respecting my church at that time wasn't necessary." Video Watch him discuss his former pastor »

In the wide-ranging interview, Obama also hit back at rival Clinton's recent claims that he is standing in the way of revotes in Florida and Michigan.

"Sen. Clinton, I have to say on this, has been completely disingenuous. She said when she was still trying to compete with the votes in Iowa and New Hampshire that Michigan and Florida wouldn't count," he said.

"Then, as soon as she got into trouble politically and it looked like she would have no prospects of winning the nomination without having them count, suddenly she's extraordinarily concerned with the voters there."

"I understand the politics of it, but let's be clear that it's politics," he added. "I want the Michigan delegation and the Florida delegation to be seated. And however the Democratic National Committee determines we can get that done, I'm happy to abide by those rules."

Video Watch what Obama has to say about DNC rules »

Those comments come hours after Clinton made a trip to Michigan and directly urged Obama to join her call to count the Michigan and Florida votes or hold new elections in those states.

"Sen. Obama speaks passionately on the trail about empowering American people. Today, I am urging him to match those words with actions to make sure people of Michigan and Florida have a voice and a vote in this election," Clinton said at a campaign rally in Detroit. "This is a crucial test [for Obama] -- does he mean what he says or not?"

Michigan and Florida held primaries in January, but the national party stripped them of their delegates for scheduling their contests too early.

Michigan has 157 Democratic delegates at stake, and Florida has 211.On the issue of Iraq, Obama said significant improvements have been made, but the U.S. strategy "continues to be a failed strategy."

Video Watch him explain his Iraq position »I mean, no one has answered the question as to how this operation in Iraq -- that has now lasted five years, will have cost us more than a trillion dollars and thousands of lives -- how this has made us more safe."

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