Dar Es Salaam, TANZANIA (CNN) – It took two days, but Obama-mania finally crashed President Bush's party in Africa ever so briefly on Sunday.
The whole point of Bush's six-day trip to this continent is to break away from the presidential campaign that's overshadowing him in the United States, and get some attention for his AIDS relief program that's a popular legacy item. And in fact, Bush was greeted like a native son when he arrived at the statehouse here for a meeting with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete - literally thousands of screaming fans lining a red carpet to get a chance to shake his hand.
But this is also the home turf of sorts for a real native son, Sen. Barack Obama, whose father hailed from Kenya. So questions about the Democratic presidential candidate are bound to come up. And the first one did at a joint press conference with Bush and Kikwete, and it was politely and somewhat comically dodged by both leaders.
Jennifer Loven of the Associated Press asked Bush a question about his AIDS relief plan and then turned to Kikwete to note the excitement in Africa about Obama's candidacy and asked the African leader to comment on "what you think it says about America that we might elect a black President with roots in Africa?"
Even though that part of the question was not directed at him, Bush weighed in first with mock exasperation that everyone seemed to be forgetting he was treated like a rock star on the trip. "It seemed like there was a lot of excitement for me, wait a minute," the President said to laughter. "Maybe you missed it."
Then after Bush answered the first part of Loven's question, which was about criticism over the focus on abstinence in his AIDS plan, the President turned to Kikwete and wondered aloud whether he wanted to answer the question about U.S. politics. "See, she didn't ask me it because she knew I wouldn't answer the question," said Bush, who has been trying with mixed success to refrain from opining on the exciting race to succeed him.
But Kikwete ducked any kind of endorsement in the U.S. election, instead heaping some praise on Bush.
"Well, I don't think I can venture into that territory, either," said Kikwete. "Of course, people talk with excitement of Obama - well, our excitement is that President Bush is at the end of his term, and the U.S. is going to get a new President, whoever that one is. For us, the most important thing is, let him be as good [a] friend of Africa as President Bush has been."
Public relations crisis averted. If Kikwete had launched into a speech about the wonders of Obama, U.S. journalists here would have been scurrying to file stories about how the Democratic upstart was trumping Bush's Legacy Tour.
Surely this was just a case of Kikwete being a smart politician who didn't fall into the trap of upstaging his guest. But then again, that $700 million aid check Bush had forked over to Kikwete a few minutes earlier probably fostered a wee bit of goodwill too.
–CNN White House Correspondent Ed Henry