(Adds debate response paragraphs 12-13, McCain quotes,
By David Wiessler
WASHINGTON, April 27 Barack Obama, struggling
to win over more white Democratic voters, said in a Sunday
television interview race would not be a factor in November's
election that could make him the first black U.S. president.
"Is race still a factor in our society? Yes. I don't think
anybody would deny that," Obama said on "Fox News Sunday."
"Is that going to be the determining factor in a general
election? No, because I'm absolutely confident that the
American people -- what they're looking for is somebody who can
solve their problems," the Illinois senator said in an
interview taped on Saturday.
Obama and Democratic rival New York Sen. Hillary Clinton
were focusing on Indiana, which with North Carolina will be the
next big tests on May 6 toward picking a presidential nominee
to face Republican John McCain in November.
Obama is leading Clinton in the popular vote, states won
and committed delegates to the party's nominating convention in
August, but her recent victories in Pennsylvania and Ohio have
raised questions about his ability to win white voters.
In Pennsylvania, Clinton won white union households and
white Catholics -- two important Democratic blocs -- by about
70 percent to Obama's 30 percent. About one in seven
Pennsylvania voters said race was an issue and that group voted
overwhelmingly against Obama.
Obama said he had won many of those same voters in other
states and after a Democratic nominee was decided, they would
back the party's candidate against McCain.
"I am confident that when you come to a general election,
and we are having a debate about the future of this country --
how are we going to lower gas prices, how are we going to deal
with job losses, how are we going to focus on energy
independence -- that those are voters who I will be able to
appeal to," he said.
"If I lose, it won't be because of race," Obama said. "It
will be because ... I made mistakes on the campaign trail, I
wasn't communicating effectively my plans in terms of helping
them in their everyday lives."
Howard Wolfson, Clinton's top campaign strategist, agreed
the party will be united against the Republicans once there is
a Democratic nominee. Some Democrats fear the current fight
could cause a dangerous split in the autumn.
"Both the Obama campaign and the Clinton campaign are
absolutely committed to coming together at the conclusion of
this process, coming behind whoever the nominee is, and
enthusiastically supporting that person," he said on "Face The
Nation" on CBS.
Clinton, a former first lady who would be the first female
president of the United States, had challenged Obama to a
one-on-one debate without moderator before the Indiana vote.
Obama turned her down to concentrate on meeting voters but
said on Sunday he would be "more than happy to consider"
another debate after Indiana.
Obama's comments on race came as his former pastor,
Jeremiah Wright, began a series of public appearances to combat
criticism of his controversial sermons that have, among other
things, suggested the United States deserved some blame for the
Sept. 11 attacks.
Obama again denounced Wright's offensive comments but said,
since he had a long relationship with the pastor, voters had a
legitimate interest in him. "I don't think that the issue of
Reverend Wright is illegitimate," Obama said. "I just think
that the way it was reported was not ... a reflection of both
that church that I attend and who I am."
In Miami, McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, said
that while he had not commented on the controversy he is
disturbed by some new remarks he has heard about.
"Senator Obama himself says it's a legitimate political
issue, so I would imagine that many other people will share
that view and it will be in the arena," he said at a news
conference. "But my position that Senator Obama doesn't share
those views remains the same."
Obama's appearance on "Fox News Sunday" came after host
Chris Wallace started running a clock showing how long it had
been since the Illinois senator said he would appear on the
show -- 772 days up to Sunday.
"It takes me about 772 days to prepare for these
questions," Obama joked as he opened the show.
Many Democrats say Fox is too conservative and
Republican-oriented and some have refused to appear on the
(Additional reporting by Tom Brown; Editing by John
(To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters
"Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at