(CNN) - Standing in South Carolina, where Democratic African-American voters may have the most influence on next year's presidential primaries, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, faced a blunt question of race: how does he respond to African-Americans who say he is not black enough?
Obama, the son of a Kenyan father and Caucasian mother, shook his head as the question was still coming across a video screen at Monday's Democratic candidate forum. He smiled and sparked laughter throughout the Charleston, South Carolina auditorium.
"When I'm catching a cab in Manhattan," Obama replied, "I have... my credentials." More laughter broke out as the senator's remarks trailed off and he segued into a broader stump answer.
"Race permeates society," he said, "and I do believe in the core decency of the American people."
South Carolina has a pivotal early primary, the first in the south and one of the most influential for African-Americans. But Obama has yet to win the black vote in the state. A CNN/Opinion Research poll conducted in the state last week showed Hillary Clinton with a massive 16-point lead over Obama among African-American Democrats likely to vote in the primary.
- CNN Radio's Lisa Goddard