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Obama tells critics to leave his wife alone

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said on Monday that Republican critics should stop picking on his wife Michelle.

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“These folks should lay off my wife,” Obama said in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Obama was referring to a four-minute video posted on YouTube by the Tennessee Republican Party last week during a visit by Michelle Obama that portrayed a remark she made in February in an unflattering manner.

Michelle Obama’s remark that “for first time in my adult lifetime I’m proud of my country” stirred a controversy at the time. Critics said it sounded unpatriotic and suggested she had not been proud of her country before her husband’s candidacy.

In the ABC interview, Obama, an Illinois senator and Democratic front-runner to contest the November election against Republican John McCain, called the video “low class” and said “most of the American people would think that as well.”

The Republican video repeatedly showed Michelle Obama making the proud remark interspersed with comments by Tennesseans about their own patriotism.

“Whoever is in charge of the Tennessee GOP needs to think long and hard about the kind of campaign that they want to run,” Obama said.

Michelle Obama joined her husband in the ABC interview and said she believed voters were more focused on the issues.

“We are trusting that the American voters are ready to talk about the issues and not talking about things that have nothing to do with making people’s lives better,” she said.

Obama has not formally won the Democratic presidential nomination, but he leads against New York Sen. Hillary Clinton in the pledged delegates to the August party convention that will pick a candidate to run against McCain, an Arizona senator. The Democratic candidates face off in primaries in Oregon and Kentucky on Tuesday, and three more before the party voting ends on June 3.

(Reporting by Donna Smith; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters “Tales from the Trail: 2008” online at http:/