(CNN) - Barack Obama told CNN Wednesday the recent uproar over his former pastor's sermons has reminded him of the odds he faces in winning the White House.
"In some ways this, 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 than some of the other conventional candidates," the Illinois senator told CNN's Anderson Cooper in an exclusive one-on-one interview. (Related: Behind the scenes: Anderson Cooper asks Obama if the controversy has damaged him)
Obama declined to speculate on whether the controversy surrounding the Rev. Jeremiah's 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 Senator 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 major 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.
Catch the full interview tonight on Anderson Cooper 360, 10 p.m. ET
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
(CNN) - A top Michigan Democrat reports that negotiators working to pass an 11th-hour plan for a re-vote in the state are increasingly frustrated with Barack Obama’s failure to either embrace the plan currently being considered, or propose an alternative.
Lawmakers are facing mounting pressure this evening to come up with an agreement before the legislature adjourns Thursday for a two-week recess.
“The Obama people are blocking it in the legislature,” the Democratic source tells CNN, who says that the group has repeatedly and unsuccessfully reached out to the campaign for input and cooperation.
The source says that Obama’s campaign has been asked to craft an alternative or to meet with the Clinton campaign to work out an acceptable compromise, but that those requests have been met with silence.
Obama spokesman Bill Burton disputes this account, though the campaign offers no specifics.
The Clinton campaign has been increasing its criticism of Obama for his failure to back a new primary that would meet national party requirements and allow a full Michigan delegation to be seated at the Democratic convention this summer.
Wednesday, Hillary Clinton made her first campaign appearance in Michigan this year, challenging Obama directly to back the seating of a full Michigan delegation.
Clinton won the January Michigan contest with 55 percent of the vote, but was awarded no delegates. She was the only major Democratic candidate to appear on the ballot; 40 percent of the party’s primary voters chose the “uncommitted” option instead.
Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, who has been a major proponent of a new primary vote, told CNN Wednesday that his group of four unaligned Michigan politicians was hopeful that legislators would vote on the plan this evening or Thursday, which would allow the delegation to be seated “without a floor fight and without a credentials fight.”
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Just 31 percent of Americans approve of how President Bush is handling his job, according to a poll released Wednesday, the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war.
Sixty-seven percent of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey disapprove of the president's performance.
The 31 percent approval number is a new low for Bush in CNN polling, and 40 points lower than the president's number at the start of the Iraq war.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A pro-immigration group announced Wednesday it is beefing up efforts to promote its agenda, eight months before voters head to the polls.
America’s Voice has hired pro-immigration operative Frank Sharry to lead the organization, which will focus on “mobilizing” immigrant voters, and establishing a “campaign-style … rapid response war room.” Sharry is the former head of the National Immigration Forum.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll released this week shows that immigration ranks fifth behind the economy, Iraq, health care, and terrorism on the list of the most important issues heading into the elections.
CHARLESTON, West Virginia (CNN) - On the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq, Hillary Clinton re-emphasized her plan to withdraw U.S. forces from the country and said “we won’t protect” the Iraqis if the their government fails to make meaningful political progress.
The New York senator was asked by an audience member here, on her first campaign stop in West Virginia, about her strategy to end the war.
Clinton explained that her three-part plan begins with finding the best way, in consultation with top military advisers, to withdraw American troops in 60 days. Iraq’s future, she said, should be up to Iraq’s political leaders.
“The Iraqis have not done what they had to do to secure their own future,” she said. “And I have said I don’t believe our men and women should stay there to fight their civil war.”
“So we will start bringing them home and we will tell Iraqis the ball is in their court,” she continued. “Now, we will help them, we will support them, but we will not protect them if they refuse to do what we want them to do.”
Clinton said that she is “of course” worried that Iraq could disintegrate if U.S. forces withdraw, but stated: “If the Iraqis are not ready to take responsibility for themselves, it’s not going to make a difference.”
A strong diplomatic effort in the region is also required to bolster Iraqi security, she told the audience.
(CNN) - Experience versus change. That has been a constant refrain we’ve heard out on the campaign trail. Which is more important in this presidential election campaign?
Barack Obama beats Hillary Clinton and John McCain in our latest CNN-Opinion Research Corporation Poll when it comes who voters feel is the candidate best able to effect change. The American public, the poll shows, believes he can better change our political culture. In the same poll, however, he loses when it comes to experience. For one thing, both Clinton and McCain have been figures on the national political stage for far longer.
Obama is willing to address the issue directly – and in the process take a swipe at both McCain and Clinton.
“It is time to have a debate with John McCain about the future of our national security,” Obama said Wednesday. “And the way to win that debate is not to compete with John McCain over who has more experience in Washington because that’s a contest he will win. The way to win a debate with John McCain is not to talk, act and vote like him on national security because then we all lose.”
Obama’s surrogates have made the constant point in recent weeks and months that having a great deal of Washington experience is not always useful. Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, they point out, had decades of Washington experience – going back to the 1960’s – which they say did not necessarily help them make better decisions during this Bush administration.
If Obama gets the Democratic presidential nomination and faces John McCain, you can expect to be hearing a lot more about change versus experience.
- Wolf Blitzer
(CNN) - Barack Obama on Wednesday took aim at potential rival John McCain over the Arizona senator's apparent misstep at a recent press conference in Jordan, the latest sign Democrats are looking to capitalize on the moment.
"Just yesterday, we heard Sen. McCain confuse Sunni and Shiite, Iran and Al Qaeda," Obama said during a speech on Iraq Wednesday morning. "Maybe that is why he voted to go to war with a country that had no Al Qaeda ties. Maybe that is why he completely fails to understand that the war in Iraq has done more to embolden America’s enemies than any strategic choice that we have made in decades.
The gaffe in question occurred during a news conference in Jordan Tuesday, when the presumptive Republican presidential nominee repeatedly said Iran was supplying al Qaeda. Iran is predominately a Shiite country and is not aiding the Sunni dominated Al-Qaeda.
McCain ultimately corrected himself after Sen. Joe Lieberman whispered in his ear.
"I'm sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al Qaeda. I am sorry," the Arizona senator said.
The Democratic National Committee immediately seized on the comment, saying the misstep raises question over whether McCain "can be trusted to offer a clear way forward." It also forwarded a transcript of a recent interview in which he appears to make the same mistake.
McCain's campaign hit back on the DNC comments, saying the "Democrats have launched political attacks today because they know the American people have deep concerns about their candidates’ judgment and readiness to lead as commander in chief.”
In his speech Wednesday in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Obama also criticized McCain for his continued support for an "open-ended war."
"Now we know what we’ll hear from those like John McCain who support open-ended war. They will argue that leaving Iraq is surrender," he said. "That we are emboldening the enemy. These are the mistaken and misleading arguments we hear from those who have failed to demonstrate how the war in Iraq has made us safer. "
UPDATE: Responding to Obama's comments, McCain senior adviser Mark Salter said, "John McCain wants American forces to come home when our clear and serious interests at stake in Iraq, which nearly 4,000 Americans have given their lives to secure, are truly safe, when al Qaeda is defeated; Iran's influence is contained, and the potential for a truly cataclysmic civil war in Iraq is remote. That, I think, is what is called 'making us safer.'
"Senator Obama's plan, if it can be charitably described as one, would do the reverse."
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
Clinton made a last-minute trip to Michigan today to emphasize her support for a re-vote there, saying it's "wrong, and frankly un-American" not to have delegates from the two states seated at the convention. She also is suggesting that the outcome of the general election may be at stake if Democrats don't count these delegates. Of course, the DNC penalized both these states for moving up their primaries.
Obama, whose name wasn't on the ballot in Michigan, hasn't yet supported or opposed the plan, but his campaign has raised a number of questions about the proposal. They say that a revote wouldn't make such a big difference in the overall delegate count and that the Clinton campaign is trying to change the rules to suit itself.
To read more and contribute to the Cafferty File discussion click here
The Obama campaign says a Michigan re-vote could lead to several legal issues. (Getty Images)
(CNN) - Hours before Hillary Clinton is set to take the stage in Detroit, Michigan to personally make the case for a re-vote in the state, the Obama campaign circulated a memo from its top lawyer arguing a re-vote could encounter legal hurdles.
Bob Bauer, a longtime Washington lawyer and the Obama campaign's general counsel, said in the memo a rushed re-vote in Michigan like the one currently proposed by the governor is full of several flaws that could serve to disenfranchise voters there a second time.
"[The] questions could put at risk the running of the election, undermine acceptance of the results if the election is held, and in both cases effectively deny Michigan voters, a second consecutive time, meaningful participation in the nominating process," Bauer wrote. (Read full Obama memo [PDF])
Specifically, Bauer took issue with the re-vote proposal's stipulation that Michigan residents who voted in the the Republican primary in January will not be able to vote in any new Democratic contest - the campaign argues several Democrats voted in the Republican primary because the Democratic one was meaningless. He also says legal issues could arise over the financing of the election with so called "soft money," absentee voter rules, and the strain of preparing for a new election in such a short time frame.
Clinton's campaign released a memo shortly after Obama's that took aim at their rival for "refusing to give the people of Michigan the chance to exercise their fundamental right to vote." (Read full Clinton memo [PDF])
"The Clinton campaign believes the right to vote is a bedrock principle of our country and that empowering the people of Michigan and Florida to make their voices heard must be a priority for any candidate running for the Democratic nomination," the Clinton memo states. "As such, we must either honor the original vote or hold a state-run primary that doesn’t leave the taxpayers footing the bill."
The memo also takes issue with the Obama campaign's contention that many of its potential supporters may have voted in the Republican primary in January.
The Obama campaign’s allies in Michigan organized an effort to get people in Michigan to vote for “uncommitted” in the Democratic primary, helping to bring the uncommitted share of vote to 40 percent," the memo states. "So the Obama camp can’t reasonably argue supporters participated in the GOP primary and didn’t vote in the Democratic contest."
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
(CNN) - The Democratic presidential candidates offered a sharply different take on the Iraq War from that of GOP Sen. John McCain as each candidate observed the war's fifth anniversary Wednesday.
"This war has now lasted longer than World War I, World War II, or the Civil War," Sen. Barack Obama said in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on the fifth anniversary of the start of the war.
"Nearly 4,000 Americans have given their lives. Thousands more have been wounded. Even under the best-case scenario, this war will cost American taxpayers well over a trillion dollars," he added. "And where are we for all this sacrifice? We are less able to shape events abroad."