Illinois Candidate for Senate Barack Obama Addresses DNCC
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GWEN IFILL: So what did you think of your reception tonight?
BARACK OBAMA: You know, everybody was so gracious. I was really just honored to have the opportunity to speak.
Hopefully I gave voice to some of the hopes and dreams that I’m hearing as I campaign around Illinois.
GWEN IFILL: It was as big a reception it seemed as Bill Clinton got last night. Did that surprise you in any way?
BARACK OBAMA: Well, you know, it’s hard to measure when you’re out there, because, you know, you’re just trying to make sure that you don’t screw up.
Bill is a little more comfortable, and more accustomed to these settings.
But I was obviously pleased that I stayed within my time limit, and that people were very warm and gracious.
GWEN IFILL: It was more than staying within your time limit. You must represent something to the Democrats in this hall. What do you think that is?
BARACK OBAMA: You know, I think that people feel optimistic by the way we won in Illinois in the primary, because I think we confounded a lot of odds that said that whites won’t vote for blacks, or suburbanites won’t vote for a city guy or down state people won’t vote for folks from upstate.
We were able to bring together a coalition that said all of us had a shared set of values.
And even if you don’t agree with me on every single thing, but I can still trust you and decide that you might be my representative.
GWEN IFILL: It was still kind of a remarkable unfolding of events during this primary season, both in your party and the other party.
BARACK OBAMA: Yes.
GWEN IFILL: How has that kind of serendipitously affected you?
BARACK OBAMA: Well, you know, the primary was a hard slog. I mean, I think that sometimes people don’t get enough of a sense that I was running against a guy who spent $30 million as well as a sitting state official.
But we were able to right at the end to pull together I think a lot of momentum that carried us into the general.
Obviously since that time things have turned out in an odd way between Jack Ryan dropping out, Mike Ditka thinking about getting in, you know, there have been a lot of twists and turns, but we’re trying to stay focused on doing the same thing regardless of what happens on the other side.
And that is just talking about jobs, health care, education, traveling around the state, focusing on the issues that voters care about.
GWEN IFILL: If you look at this convention, I wonder to what degree you think that your current good fortune politically has anything to do with the 2000 recount and the echoes left over from that.
BARACK OBAMA: Well, that’s interesting. I mean, I think, I hadn’t thought of that, but I think that it’s certainly a sense that we want basic fairness in our politics, that we don’t want the bitter partisanship that we’ve been seeing in Washington.
Dick Durbin I think appropriately mentioned Paul Simon as somebody who was a mentor to me, and one of the things that he always talked about is being able to disagree without being disagreeable but also insisting on a fundamental fairness in our constitutional values and making sure every vote counts.
And so I think that probably does have an impact.
GWEN IFILL: I have to ask you about a quote that’s attributed to you I guess in the Atlantic Monthly Magazine that you said that John Kerry lacked a certain amount of oomph, I think was the word. That’s not what you said tonight.
BARACK OBAMA: You know, it was four months ago that I said that, in a casual conversation with a reporter where he said how do you think John Kerry’s campaign is going right now, and this was right after the primary – he had been going through a grueling battle; he was exhausted, and I said, well, you know, we’re going to need to pick up the pace, and he has.
And you’ve seen him hit his stride all the way through to this convention. I think that the Democrats are going to come out of this place as unified and as energized as you’ve ever seen them.
GWEN IFILL: What has to happen after you leave Boston this week in order for that to happen for him and for you?
BARACK OBAMA: Well, you know, we’ll take care of Illinois.
But I think in those critical states which may end up determining the election, I think it’s just a matter of being clear, straightforward, honest, specific about how the Democrats can provide opportunity for people who don’t have it, and help give relief to those folks who have made it into the middle class but are still struggling and are feeling that they may be slipping.
GWEN IFILL: Senate candidate Barack Obama, thank you very much. Back to you, Jim.